- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Port commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to submit a bid to host the next America’s Cup on San Diego Bay in August 2017.

The commissioners, two of them sailors, spoke enthusiastically about the prospect of hosting sailing’s marquee regatta. The commissioners directed the port’s staff to respond to a request for information from America’s Cup officials by March 3.

America’s Cup officials are talking with other venues about hosting the 35th America’s Cup because San Francisco officials haven’t offered the same terms they did for last summer’s regatta, which ended with Oracle Team USA staging one of the greatest comebacks in sports.

San Diego “definitely is one of the venues that seems to be ticking quite a lot of boxes,” Russell Coutts, the CEO of Oracle Team USA, said by phone from the British Virgin Islands, where he’s attending a regatta in the RC44 class, which he helped launch. “It’d be a really good venue.”

Coutts said the plan is to eliminate two or three potential venues in the next month or so, and then negotiate host city agreements with two ports. One of those ports would be a backup. Officials also are looking at venues to host the challenger eliminations and warmup regattas called the America’s Cup World Series.

Coutts, who skippered Team New Zealand to a 5-0 win against Dennis Conner off San Diego in 1995, said the process could stretch into the summer.

The only other confirmed potential venue is Hawaii. While not confirmed, it’s believed Newport, R.I., and Long Beach, Calif., also are in the mix.

San Diego hosted the America’s Cup in 1988, 1992 and 1995, with racing on the Pacific Ocean off Point Loma.

Commissioner Dan Malcolm, who said he’s passionate about sailing, used a basketball analogy for the San Diego Port’s bid.

“Even though we’re in 3-point land on this shot, I think it is definitely worth it for the potential impact that this could have on San Diego to take this shot,” he said.

Continuing the analogy, commissioner Marshall Merrifield said it was “maybe a solid outside two-point shot. This isn’t just a sailing race. This is not the sailing we’re used to. These are sailboats that actually fly. It’s very exciting stuff, very dramatic.”

The 34th America’s Cup was contested in 72-foot, wing-sailed catamarans that rode up on hydrofoils, with both hulls completely out of the water. Those boats were expensive and, some felt, overpowered with their 131-foot wing sails. To cut costs, organizers are proposing sailing the next America’s Cup in catamarans of 60-65 feet, with smaller wing sails and fewer sailors.

Merrifield said he felt San Diego has more to offer than San Francisco.

“We have much better stadium sailing viewing,” he said. “People in Berkeley cannot see these like the folks in Coronado can.”

He also said the port has more control over the services the America’s Cup officials are looking for.

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