New cities in the running for 2017 America’s Cup

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San Francisco won’t return as the site of the 2017 America’s Cup, but Chicago or San Diego could be the host city for the next edition of the prestigious sailing race.

In an interview this week with the Associated Press, Russell Coutts, CEO of two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA, said Chicago is a candidate, along with San Diego and Bermuda, to host the challenger semifinals and finals and the America’s Cup match in 2017.

“San Francisco did a great job last time,” Coutts told the AP by phone on Wednesday from his native New Zealand. “Frankly, whoever is chosen next time to host it will have a hard act to follow to repeat the excitement that was there in the finals. I’m very confident that the three cities remaining are all excellent candidates.

“It’s obvious that the offers in the other cities are more compelling than what San Francisco was offering,” he said.

If San Diego is selected, racing would be on the bay rather than miles offshore on the Pacific Ocean when the city hosted the America’s Cup in 1988, 1992 and 1995. Coutts ended San Diego’s run when he skippered Team New Zealand to a five-race sweep of Dennis Conner in May 1995. Coutts still owns a home in Coronado, across the bay from downtown San Diego.

One of the leaders of the San Diego proposal said he is “excited and optimistic” about the city’s chances to host the event.

“I believe we’re in a very good position,” Board of Commissioners chairman Don Nelson told U-T SanDiego on Thursday. “There is still a lot of work to be done on both sides. But I know from the number of trips they have made to San Diego that we have a really good shot.”

Chicago had been a mystery candidate, with neither side publicly confirming its interest until Coutts did so.

“If you look at it logistically speaking, we’ve got great winds in Chicago,” Lou Sandoval, co-owner of Karma Yacht sales and a former chairman of the Chicago Yacht Club’s annual Race to Mackinac, told the Chicago Tribune. “They were calling races off because they were too windy in San Francisco. We have a decent amount of wind.”

Based on his experience hosting races on Lake Michigan, Sandoval said the America’s Cup would fit in well with the environment in Chicago, suggesting that spectators could gather on Northerly Island, Navy Pier and Planetarium Point, to name a few high-visibility venues.

“I think it’s very viable,” Sandoval said. “The thing in our favor is the time zone from a global perspective.”

Chicago and Bermuda would offer more appealing racing hours for European TV viewers.

For a city to host the event, the nearby body of water on which the race would occur must be on the sea or “an arm of the sea.” A 1984 New York Supreme Court decision ruled that under this criterion, a boat from Chicago could challenge for the Cup because Lake Michigan is considered to be an arm of the sea.

If Chicago is selected, it would be the first time the race would be held on a lake.

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