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SD organizers hoping to win America's Cup bid

America's Cup organizers want to attract a wider audience with a more fan-friendly sport, and local officials say San Diego is the best place to do it.

San Diego is one of two finalists, along with Bermuda, to host the 35th America's Cup in 2017.

Port of San Diego Chairman Bob Nelson is helping lead the city's bid.

"We have to have something that's going to guarantee a really great opportunity for the sport to demonstrate what America's Cup racing is all about in the 21st century," he said. "A big part of that is arena-style racing — racing people can feel comfortable watching from the shore and be able to feel the rhythms of the wind and the water and the athletic performances of the competitors."

The America's Cup Event Authority (ACEA) is expected to select a host site by the end of the year.

A big part of San Diego's selling point is a race course in San Diego Bay, which allows spectators to watch the action up close.

Last year, the America's Cup was held in San Francisco Bay, marking the first time in the event's 162-year history that it wasn't contested in the ocean.

"This is not your father's America's Cup," Nelson said. "For generations, people have described sailboat spectating akin to watching paint dry. That's because the fans are miles away from where the race is occurring out in the open ocean.

"Mr. (Larry) Ellison and Sir Russell (Coutts) clearly have a vision that the America's Cup needs to become an event that is attractive to a broader range of people."

Ellison is the software billionaire whose Oracle Team USA captured the 34th America's Cup with an historic, 9-8 comeback win over a team from New Zealand.

Coutts is director of the ACEA and a five-time winner of the America's Cup.

San Diego recently hosted two sailing events in the bay — the Russell Coutts 44s in November 2010 and the America's Cup World Series in November 2011.

Nelson said those successful events drew the interest of America's Cup organizers.

He said another selling point is the high reliability for afternoon winds, which can typically reach 15 knots inside the bay.

"Even if it's a fairly light day, the variation of wind alone can make for a very interesting race," Nelson said.

San Diego has hosted the America's Cup in 1988, 1992 and 1995.

Nelson said San Diego already has much of the infrastructure in place to host the race, unlike San Francisco, which had to build several facilities, causing the city to lose about $11.5 million.

The Port of San Diego, which is the lead agency in the bid, soon will be receiving a request for proposal from the ACEA.

Nelson said the port will work with the city of San Diego, Sailing Events Association San Diego and the volunteer sailing community on its bid.

The port also tapped a three-person committee to supervise the application and help get the necessary approvals: Nelson, and port commissioners Dan Malcolm of Imperial Beach and Garry Bonelli of Coronado.

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Unified Port of San Diego Executive(s):

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Bob Nelson

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John Bolduc

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