Officials negotiate host city agreement

The chances of the next America's Cup being sailed with a backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the Coit Tower improved dramatically Tuesday.

City officials finalized a host city agreement with the Golden Gate Yacht Club, which backs America's Cup defender BMW Oracle Racing. The agreement was quickly submitted to the Board of Supervisors, which must approve it. Six of the 11 supervisors are co-sponsors of the agreement.

The Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 on Oct. 5 to approve a term sheet that was a precursor to a host city agreement. The city pledged in the term sheet to help raise $270 million from corporate sponsors to help defray the costs of staging the regatta.

"I think this is more than significant," said Tom Ehman, a spokesman for the GGYC and member of its America's Cup Committee. "It's a big step forward for the 34th edition of the Cup. There can be no better venue for sailing than San Francisco Bay. Personally, I and the GGYC are very excited by the prospects and delighted with this latest development."

Mayor Gavin Newsom agreed.

"There is no better place and no better partner for the America's Cup than San Francisco," Newsom said in a statement. "With this agreement, San Francisco is making its commitment to the America's Cup in return for the team's commitment to bring the world's oldest international sailing competition and all the jobs and long-term economic benefits that come with it to San Francisco. This is the opportunity of a lifetime we must not let pass."

San Francisco's only competition is Italy. Valencia, Spain, which hosted the America's Cup in 2007 and in February, is no longer under consideration for the main regatta, Ehman said. However, the Spanish port could host a preliminary regatta.

"I think it's fair to say that if Italy does not match or exceed what's on offer from San Francisco, I would expect San Francisco be given the nod," Ehman said. "We need to wait to see if the supervisors approve it and we need to wait to see what the final offer from Italy is."

Italy is in the mix because Club Nautico di Roma is the Challenger of Record, which represents the interests of all challengers.

A final decision from GGYC and BMW Oracle Racing is expected by the end of the year. BMW Oracle Racing is owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle Corp.

Ehman said GGYC was "pleasantly surprised" that six supervisors co-sponsored the agreement.

He added that it was as difficult a negotiation as he's been involved with in his 30 years of association with the America's Cup.

"The city has been tough and meticulous," he said. "I think it's a fair and good agreement, and assuming the supervisors approve it, then I think that will put San Francisco right at the forefront. I think we'll have a similar agreement from Italy and then we can make a final evaluation."

The next step is a Budget and Finance Committee hearing on the agreement on Dec. 1.

Valencia hosted the 2007 America's Cup, which was the most recent traditional multichallenger regatta. It also hosted the 33rd America's Cup in February, when BMW Oracle Racing routed Alinghi of Switzerland. That rare one-on-one match was the result of a bitter 2½-year court fight between BMW Oracle Racing and Alinghi over rules and other issues.

The next America's Cup will be sailed in fast, 72-foot catamarans with wing sails.