Pitchforks are starting to come out amongst critics of San Francisco’s plans for the 34th America’s Cup, and AC organizers are taking hits on multiple fronts from politicians and media alike, deep into the mainstream. ACRM boss Iain Murray’s told the NZ Herald last week that the organization would need to rethink the format for AC34 given the fact that just three challengers had paid the entry fee, and his admission provided fodder for those remembering Coutt’s confident projections of “ten good challengers” not more than a year ago. Maybe four months remain until the real ‘drop-dead date’ for those building an AC-72, but if China and Korea (both rumored to be close to committing) can’t make the grade and a three-boat LVS is all we get, there will be no way to disguise Coutts’ – and by extension, the event’s – ultimate failure to deliver (though Louis Vuitton may have a new product so lucrative that it doesn’t need the Cup for marketing). Competitors are one thing – spectators are entirely another, and organizers’ recent, and massive reduction of spectator estimates for the 2013 event aren’t doing the AC’s public approval rating any favors. Less spectators means less revenue, and it also means that that >$1B ‘direct impact’ number that helped San Francisco swallow some of the more bitter pills in the Cup agreement might be nothing but vaporware.
That’s not the only attack ACRM has had to fend off this week. Yesterday, the San Fran Chron’s John Cote revealed that the America’s Cup Organizing Committee (ACOA) had fallen well short of its current-year fundraising commitments in the overall plan to bring the Cup to the Bay, with nearly all the money raised coming either from the AC (a/k/a Larry Ellison’s Wallet) or nonbinding pledges of financial support. The shortfall raised major hackles in the town, and with it going big on HuffPost, upcoming negotiations for the final, binding deal between SF and ACAlphabet are going to be under a hell of an international microscope.
The final big critique of the SF Cup may have more to do with the country’s current hatred for the super-rich than it does the details of the deal, though concerns are surely valid that an event that brings SF far less revenue than predicted should probably have consequences on the value of what Ellison receives for bringing the circus to town. In a scathing piece on CounterPunch entitled “Let Them Eat Yachts,” Don Santina writes that:
“In return for Ellison’s chump-change makeover of some of the waterfront for his event, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, the latest version of the Host City Agreement gives the ACEA Seawall Lot 330 and “the rights to leases of at least 10 years and rent credit on four piers depending on the money it spends improving port infrastructure.” For a minimum $55 million infrastructure investment by the ACEA, Ellison gets development rights and a 66-year-rent-free lease on Piers 30-32, and if he spends a little more pocket change, he gets reimbursement “ in the form of bond proceeds, then credit to lease Piers 26, 28, and, ultimately, 29, according to a draft of the deal.”
But fear and opposition to the plan is no doubt growing, aided in part by the 5-month break from racing, in part by the fear of the 99%, and in part by a political environment that has everyone ready for battle on every issue.
This is big business and a hell of a complicated project. Is AC34 a fantasy that’s on the ropes, or a visionary event that’s just attracting the kind of criticism that new thinking always does? At least The Economist likes what Lazza is doing!
ASK ‘EM YOURSELF
The Anarchists have already come up with literally dozens of great questions for our Skype interview with ACRM Director Iain Murray this Friday, but now you can also get some face time with ACEA boss Richard Worth, too. He’ll be sitting in with Clean and Murray, and if you post your questions in the thread, we’ll do our best to get them answered.