Tension mounts in America’s Cup battle

  • Grant Gibbons, Minister of Education and Economic Development  (Photo by Mark Tatem)

    Grant Gibbons, Minister of Education and Economic Development (Photo by Mark Tatem)

Dr Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Education and Economic Development, has declined to comment on a claim that Bermuda has offered “financial incentives” to bring the America’s Cup to the Island.

Bermuda is locked in a battle with San Diego to decide which venue will host the lucrative event in 2017.

A report in the San Diego Union Tribune claims that “it is all about money” and that Bermuda may have the edge because of tax-free competition for all participants and that “Bermuda organisers have indicated their final bid will include other financial rewards”.

Asked to respond to those claims, Dr Gibbons said: “As we are involved in ongoing discussions with the America’s Cup Event Authority, it would be inappropriate to comment directly on speculation from a San Diego paper.”

It was the Minister who orchestrated Bermuda’s bid this year.

San Francisco, which hosted the previous edition of the America’s Cup in 2013, and Chicago also threw their hat in the ring as to which city would stage the multimillion-dollar event — the world’s oldest sports competition. But both have been eliminated, leaving Bermuda and San Diego to fight it out.

The decision by the America’s Cup selection committee will be made by the end of the year.

The Union Tribune’s Bill Centre told his readers: “Bermuda does have one thing going for it — money. San Diego will not be offering the financial incentives Bermuda will present in the final bids to earn the rights to host the 35th defence.

“Bermuda is already on record saying the 2017 event will be tax-free for all participants and Bermuda organisers have indicated their final bid will include other financial rewards. And, let’s face it ... money talks.

“But if pure dollars are removed from the equation, Bermuda has only one thing to offer that San Diego can’t match — a better television time for Europe. That’s it.”

The New Zealand Herald is also reporting that if Bermuda’s bid is successful, it will be tax-free for the various syndicates.

“Bermuda’s offer to host the event tax-free is seen as favourable to privately funded teams, while San Diego’s access to larger American markets may offer greater opportunities for sponsors — a key criteria in the allocation of [New Zealand] Government funding,” the Herald said.

However, Dr Gibbons would not be drawn on an argument about finance.

“Bermuda is committed to being a great partner to the America’s Cup Event Authority, as well as the Defender and the challenging teams, and, if ultimately chosen, hosting the best America’s Cup yet,” he said.

“To be truly successful and leave a lasting legacy, we recognise that the AC35 must work for Bermuda as well as the America’s Cup organisers, the teams and the sponsors.

“For Bermuda, the AC35 is not ‘just another event’, but a multiyear, dedicated effort at the whole-country level that we will embrace as an honour and an extraordinary opportunity to showcase our Island and our 400-year maritime and sailing legacy.”

Much like a recent video depicting the Californian city as the idea venue, Mr Centre makes the point that “San Diego has a better racecourse for both racers and viewers, better facilities that are already in place, a stronger cadre of necessary officials needed to run such an event, already strong ties to the Oracle USA defenders, a history in the event and a great destination for visitors.”

He quotes Bob Nelson, chairman of the Port Commissioners, who said: “We deserve to get the event for so many reasons. I have been astounded by the amount of co-operation and support this proposal has received from public agencies, civic groups and corporate organisations.

“The chance to again host the America’s Cup has created enthusiasm and partnerships that we haven’t witnessed in a long time.”

San Diego has hosted the America’s Cup on three occasions — 1988, 1992 and 1995.

However, some of the world’s leading sailors have thrown their support behind Bermuda’s bid, including Italian Francesco Bruni, who is a member of America’s Cup challengers Luna Rossa Challenge.

Competing in the recent Argo Group Gold Cup in Hamilton Harbour, Bruno said: “It’s good to have a look around and I think it’s a good place. The space is big enough and I have always liked Bermuda. You guys have good potential.”

Taylor Canfield, the Alpari World Match Racing Tour champion, said: “Bermuda would be a great venue to host the next America’s Cup. Bermuda has great weather, it’s a beautiful place and it would be incredible racing in the Great Sound, which is like basically a natural stadium for the style of racing they are looking to do.

“It would be pretty cool to see it there.”

The America’s Cup match race could last for more than a month and will be preceded by races to decide who will challenge Oracle Team USA.

Last year, in what has been described as “the miracle in the water”, Oracle beat Emirates Team New Zealand representing the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

Oracle had to win the last eight races of the best-of-17 series to complete a stunning comeback from 8-1 down, having been handicapped before the start with a two-race penalty for rules infringements.

The full list of challengers has yet to be confirmed.

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Published Nov 3, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 3, 2014 at 12:11 am)

Tension mounts in America’s Cup battle

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