San Francisco in danger of losing America's Cup

San Francisco has been told it will lose the right to host the next America's Cup unless a deal is signed by Friday.

The warning came in a letter the Golden Gate Yacht Club sent in a letter to Mayor Gavin Newsom and other officials.

America's Cup official Stephen Barclay said San Francisco officials recently changed key points in an agreement that had been negotiated between the city and the yacht club and then sent to the Board of Supervisors in early November to begin the approval process. The board's finance committee will hold a final hearing Monday, and the full board is expected to vote on the agreement Tuesday.

“They're holding on by their fingernails at the moment,” Barclay told The Associated Press on Saturday from his home in Auckland, New Zealand. “It was theirs to lose and they were told that.”

Barclay said the GGYC — which sponsors America's Cup champion BMW Oracle Racing — set the deadline because the America's Cup is committed to informing teams of the venue by Dec. 31.

BMW Oracle Racing swept Alinghi of Switzerland in two races off Valencia, Spain, in February to return the oldest trophy in international sports to the United States for the first time since 1995.

San Francisco officials have estimated that hosting the America's Cup would be worth more than $1 billion in economic benefits and create 8,000 jobs.

Barclay said the GGYC has reopened talks with Italy to hold the America's Cup in 2013. He added that Tom Ehman, a member of the GGYC's board of directors, was en route to Newport, R.I., to reopen talks with officials there. Ehman also is a member of the New York Yacht Club, which defended the America's Cup in Newport from 1930 until 1983, when Dennis Conner was beaten by Australia.

Barclay is chief operating officer of BMW Oracle Racing and a member of the GGYC's America's Cup Committee. BMW Oracle Racing is owned by software tycoon Larry Ellison.

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

There might even be a third option. BMW Oracle Racing officials are said to have remained in the United Arab Emirates following the recent Louis Vuitton Trophy regatta, perhaps to initiate talks about the America's Cup being sailed in the Middle East.

Newsom's spokesman, Tony Winnicker, confirmed receipt of the letter from Barclay.

“We're confident we'll put forward the best possible bid for the team to consider well in advance of the date it has set,” Winnicker said.

Winnicker said the city will consider the GGYC's recommendations. The original agreement included a pledge by the city to help raise $270 million in sponsorship money to defray cost of the regatta, and a commitment by Cup organizers to spend $150 million to refurbish piers in exchange for future development rights.

“We have always believed that this is a serious competition,” Winnicker said. “We believe this would be an unmatched opportunity for the America's Cup right here in San Francisco. We're going through this because we want to win. We want to bring it here.”

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