October 11, 2010

The Thrill Of Victory


What's wrong with me?

I've been trying to write this post for a week.

By now, everyone knows that the San Francisco Board of Supes has voted to extend a formal invitation to Larry Ellison and his peeps to hold America's Cup 34 in the city.

What amazes me is that some folks think that's news. Did anyone really think the Board wouldn't approve the 'terms' of the proposal?

Like every other city in this country, SF is scratching, trying to figure out ways to just keep the lights on. Along comes a plum worth an estimated $1.2 billion and the supes are gonna say "no" to that?

I'm not exactly sure how they figured the Cup would bring in $1.2 billion - I guess all of those extra quarters in the parking meters are supposed to add up.

So why did it take me over a week to write this post - especially since I've been sitting on my duff for over a month since my last post?

I should have jumped on this 10 days ago when our local yot racing association sent out an e-mail urging its membership to lobby the supes to vote in favor of the 'terms' - the list of conditions that the city would commit to and those it would expect Ellison to meet. The YRA included a link to the list of terms, but didn't really expect anyone would actually read it. Look at it yourself, and you'll see why.

It's one of those interminable documents written in language no regular guy can understand - something like my blog posts, only even worse.

It's a document obviously written by lawyers who are trying to sneak something past us and don't want real people to be able to understand - like an application for a credit card, or the ingredients for Chicken McNuggets.

But I thought it was my civic duty as a Left Coast sailing blogger to at least read the darned thing. Ugh, big mistake.

It starts out in typical lawyerly fashion, with ugly language about parties of the first part and parties of the second part, herinafter referrred to as acronyms that no one in a partying mood can remember the meaning of. I wonder how many SF Supervisors actually waded through the legal gibberish on their way to the party.

Heck, this is about bringing in $1.2 billion.




So, where was I? Oh right, explaining that as a conscientious Left Coast sailing blogger, I actually tried to make sense of the sleazy legalese and fell asleep at least three times doing so. But each time, I sobered up, shook myself awake, and pressed on.

Until I got to some very confusing parts that didn't seem to have anything to do with sailing at all. And darned if those parts aren't buried all the way towards the end of that long document of legal mumbo jumbo.

And those would be the parts about the 66 years. And the 75 years.

Why the heck is it going to take between 66 and 75 years to hold the 34th America's Cup?

Well, it turns out it's not. No sailboats are that slow. Not even Catalina 30's.

But 66 and 75 years are the lengths of time that Larry will be given free leases on several acres of waterfront property on San Francisco Bay. It's just the city's way of saying, "Thank you, Larry." Just a small token of gratitude, actually.

Several acres - they don't really say how many, but it's just a few acres.

Of waterfront property.

In San Francisco.

For 75 years.


I mean how much money could Larry possibly make from the free use of several acres of waterfront property in San Francisco for the next 75 years? He probably won't even cover his expenses for the Cup out of that.

Of course, the supes are worried that their little token of gratitude won't be enough to hold Larry's interest. Apparently, city fathers in Spain and in Italy are making even better offers.

Imagine that.

Besides getting involved in the America's Cup for the sheer love of sport that I'm sure has drawn him to it, it turns out Larry might actually make some money out of it, too.

Who would have guessed?



  1. O Docker, this is the most thrilling post you have ever written. How do you do it?

  2. To heck with the AC races. Wait till we get the Laser Masters and Tillerman out the BAY.

  3. I will consider racing in San Francisco Bay next summer if the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will agree to grant me a 75-year-lease on some suitable waterfront property free of base rent or option consideration (whatever that means.) That's the going rate these days, right?

  4. Well I am petitioning the Berkeley city council to pay for your bar bills the entire time you're out here training for and competing in the 2011 Laser Masters Worlds.

    I hope that doesn't cost them more than SF's deal with Ellison.

  5. There seems to be no shortage of things for us to be incensed about when it comes to money and who has it and who doesn't.
    What would happen if they gave an America's Cup and nobody came?
    Been contemplating the power of the boycott for years now. How much abuse does it take before people say no more?
    It makes me sick that a man as rich as Ellison should be bribed to bring his show to town. I know that's how things work, but it still gets to me.

  6. Yes Michael, I'm afraid that is exactly how things work.

    This is one of those rare instances where the wealthy have been forced to rinse out their lucrative laundry in public. Those of us who are underlings have gotten a little peek at The Deal.

    Where the next America's Cup, or the next Olympics, or the next political convention is held has virtually nothing to do with what is best for the participants (in this case, the actual sailors). I think it's a laugh to hear the folks who decide these things talk about what's in 'the best interest of the sport of sailing'.

    You and I might debate the merits of a venue's sailing winds or viewing accessibility to the public, but, in the end, those things have almost nothing to do with it, despite all of the flowery language in the press releases and sound bites.

    I'm so disillusioned.

  7. It would seem that the Golden Gate Yacht Club is acting like one of those professional sports franchises who blackmail their home city to build them a new stadium under the threat of taking their ball away and playing in some other city. I guess Newport was just a pawn in GGYC's home town land grab.

  8. I don't think anyone at the GGYC is calling the shots here. They're probably some of the few who are involved in this who actually want to see the Cup here for the 'right' reasons - because it would be a great setting for the Cup and locals would support it enthusiastically.

    While this may be a great place to sail, there is nothing in place that could possibly serve as a base for an AC event.

    The only place with enough space is a series of abandoned piers south of the Bay Bridge. They're abandoned because (as I understand it) no one has the bucks to repair the pilings and supporting structure to make them sound enough to build on.

    Until now, the cost to fix couldn't have been recovered from any reasonable development project. And before the prospect of the Cup came along, any private developer would have had a nightmare of environmental and legal hurdles to clear, too.

    Now, though, the city is promising to magically make all of the red tape go away if someone would just please step in and pay to fix the piers.

    The original plan was to reward Ellison with the long-term leases if he agreed to kick in the $170 million or so it would cost to fix up the piers. But now, in the final terms, mysteriously, there's no longer any mention of Ellison funding that.

    Instead, the city is looking to raise the money on its own and from outside sources. I think this story will only get juicier as time goes on.

  9. It would seem that GGYC has sold its soul to Lawrence Joseph Ellison to the extent that LJE and GGYC are synonymous when it comes to the business arrangements by which they are ripping off the citizens of San Francisco. Note that the "terms" are written as if it is a committee of GGYC (acting on behalf of some shadowy "event authority") who is contracting with the City . Yet we all know that it is LJE who is calling the shots and who will reap the windfall from this extraordinary gift of public assets.

    GGYC no longer exists as a independent yacht club in any real sense of the word. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of LJE.

  10. I agree with this point with you Like every other city in this country, SF is scratching, trying to figure out ways to just keep the lights on. Along comes a plum worth an estimated $1.2 billion and the supes are gonna say "no" to that?