Friday, May 08, 2015

Wimbledon of Sailing Comming to SF

A former America’s Cup executive is launching an international regatta, the Golden Gate Yacht Racing Challenge, which will be sailed annually on San Francisco Bay beginning in July 2017 in an version of the 12-meter class.

Tom Ehman, who most recently had been with the America’s Cup Event Authority and remains vice commodore of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, said he wants to restore stability and style to yacht racing. The regatta will offer yacht racing’s largest purse, $500,000; have a strict nationality rule; and be contested in the strong, steady breeze that blows through the Golden Gate.

Ehman said he envisions the Golden Gate Challenge as the Wimbledon of yacht racing in that it will be held every year at the same venue. Unlike the America’s Cup, all teams will be challengers, meaning they’ll start on equal footing each year.

“This is an opportunity to do something for the sport and the former Cup community,” Ehman said.

The Golden Gate Yacht Racing Challenge is being planned at a time when the America’s Cup has lost some of its luster and is being criticized by many for abandoning its traditions.

Oracle Team USA, then based in San Francisco, successfully defended the America’s Cup in 2013 in one of the greatest comebacks in sports, in 72-foot catamarans. When San Francisco officials didn’t offer the same terms for the next regatta, Cup officials picked Bermuda. Teams and the event itself are struggling to secure sponsorships.

The star of the regatta could be the 12-meters. They were used in what many consider the golden era of the America’s Cup, from 1958 through ’87, when personalities such as Dennis Conner and Ted Turner dominated.


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