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Newport vs San Francisco: Will Ellison Sail East?

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No doubt about it- Larry Ellison makes people nervous. Which may be one of the reasons he was blackballed by the Saint Francis Yacht Club. Of course, he famously went a few yards down shore and bought the Golden Gate Yacht Club so he could compete in the Americas Cup. All of that is ancient mariner history now, but this week he's making people on opposite coasts nervous- in San Francisco and Newport, Rhode island and our Mayor's been on the phone. To recap: earlier this month, San Francisco turned around and decided not to give Ellison a sweet deal on a stretch of waterfront in exchange for infrastructure investments, and presented a smaller venue along the North Embarcadero. So Ellison's team began shopping their event to other waterfront cities, and they found a heartbeat in Newport.

Newport has a long nautical and yacht-racing tradition (most of the wooden boats in past America's Cup races were built in nearby Bristol) and excellent sailing, and a very choice site- Fort Adams State Park- sixteen waterfront acres often used as a venue for the Newport music festivals and musket-wielding re-enacters. But with their economy in the gutter, Rhode Island is really worried about having to come up with the cash to support the event, up to $50,000,000. By the end of the month. So far, however, no one in Rhode Island has muttered the dreaded words "Environmental Impact Report."

Meanwhile, Ellison's event may be shrinking. There are only four confirmed teams, plus one whose identity has yet to be revealed, and with the exception of Oracle/BMW, all based in Europe. Newport is closer- seriously, who wants to sail through the Panama Canal? The entry fee has been reduced by two-thirds and teams given an extra five months to remit. More critically, the looming financial crisis in Europe may deter corporate sponsors from fully funding even the teams now on the roster. According to the Telegraph, sponsors pony up at least £30M a year over three years, which translates roughly to $140,000,000. So Newport may well win out- a smaller, equally scenic venue, less fog, lower upfront costs for Oracle/BMW, plus a much more desperate local government. Enjoy a little tour of the waterfront competition, above.
[We've appended commenter #1's correction. Thanks!]
· Newsom Scrambles to land America's Cup [Matier & Ross/SFGate]
· Fort Adams [Fort Adams Trust]
· Can R.I. raise up to $50 million by Dec. 31 to attract next America’s Cup races? [Providence Journal]
· America's Cup organisers reduce entry fees in a bid to attract more entrants for 2013 event [The Telegraph]
· America's Cup Coverage [Curbed SF Archives]