(AP) USA’s comeback renews interest in America’s Cup
By PAUL ELIAS
Just a month ago, the America’s Cup “village” along San Francisco’s waterfront had few visitors.
Its trendy, temporary bars often had more staff than patrons and retail workers at souvenir shops stood behind silent cash registers as sailing’s most prestigious competition got off to a desultory start with single-competitor “races” that drew little interest.
Then Oracle Team USA launched one of the greatest comebacks in the sport’s history. On Wednesday, tens of thousands lined up along the city’s waterfront, found vantage points on the city’s many hills overlooking the San Francisco Bay and took to the water in all manner of watercraft to watch software billionaire Larry Ellison retain sailing’s most prestigious trophy.
Workers called in sick, children skipped school and thousands of New Zealanders traveled to San Francisco from their home country to watch sailing’s premiere event.
A huge roar went up on Pier 23 when Ellison’s 72-foot catamaran came into view for the thousands who chose to watch the race from the finish line. The Oracle boat had a huge lead and was obviously heading for victory.
Some of the many Kiwis who traveled vast distances at great expense expressed disappointment, mixed with pride and hope for the future.
Other Kiwis complained that Ellison’s deep pockets made the difference. Ellison’s two boats were built exclusively with the billionaire’s money. Team New Zealand cobbled together its funding from many sources, including from the New Zealand government itself.
A flotilla of pleasure craft followed the Oracle boat as it left the race course and sailed under the San Francisco Bay Bridge on its way back to its storage shed. The bars and restaurants along the city’s water line began to fill and thousands of residents and tourists, a scene no one would have predicted a month ago when the America’s Cup got off to a rough start, including the death of a sailor during a training run over the summer.
Ellison upset many attendees of the annual Oracle “OpenWorld” conference in San Francisco when he skipped delivering the event’s keynote address to attend the America’s Cup. Ellison’s team won both races Tuesday to pull even with Team New Zealand at eight wins each.
Economists say the event will still fall far short of the $1.4 billion economic boon first predicted, but that the America’s Cup will still end up an economic success because of the extra days of racing and excitement the Oracle team’s comeback has brought the region.
Randolph and his organization estimated two years ago that the America’s Cup would mean an additional 8,000 jobs and $1.4 billion for the region. But that’s when event organizers expected as many as 14 syndicates to build temporary bases in the area and challenge for the Cup. In the end, only three challengers emerged and Randolph and his organization revised their estimates in March to about 5,000 jobs added and a $780 million boost to the local economy.
Randolph said it is too early to tell if even those revised numbers will be reached.
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who was mayor of San Francisco when the America’s Cup competition was awarded to the city, predicted the economic impact of the entire summer of racing and concerts sponsored by the America’s Cup will exceed the $480 million in revenue generated by the NFL’s Super Bowl in New Orleans earlier this year.