America's Cup 35 in Chicago in 2017?

America's Cup 35 in Chicago in 2017?

It was announced yesterday that Chicago is one of four candidate cities that may host the America’s Cup in 2017, the others are San Francisco, San Diego and the country of Bermuda.  The America’s Cup was won by Golden Gate Yacht Club in San Francisco in 2013 with Team Oracle and the Cup is in their possession.  Overnight it was reported that San Francisco just may bail out, leaving Chicago one of three remaining candidate cities.

What will it take for Chicago to host the 2017 America’s Cup?  I can’t under or overstate it – money.  I would estimate that the overall spending (not just in Chicago) on all of AC35 will be somewhere between $750,000,000 and $1,500,000,000 dollars should 8 to 10 Teams materialize.

Each Country Team that attempts to vie for the Cup has to organize their own funding, their own budget of expenses, and deal with their own countries taxation system, which is different than the U.S.  It appears that foreign challengers have additional taxes to pay when they operate more than half a year outside of their country.

The Host City will gain additional tourism, TV and internet time will showcase the City worldwide, while the Team Sponsors are a culmination of individuals and corporations, commonly there is one individual who puts up the largest amount of money, and to be frank, they have amassed great fortune, but that will be just one per Team and the last time around, there were only four Teams.  I am sure they are projecting between 8 and 10 teams competing in 2017.

What has to happen to have Chicago become a contender and land the 35th America’s Cup?

  • The City and State would need to put together a benefits package, based on projected tourism revenue.
  • The Federal Government would need to put together tax relief for the foreign Teams, to level the playing field.
  • I saw a video on sailing sponsorship recently where sailing is so popular in France, that the sponsors seek out boats to sponsor, the boats do not seek out sponsors.  Chicago’s corporate and philanthropic community would need to step forward, and not wait to be asked, to financially support the 35th America’s Cup and/or the Teams.

Other than that, Chicago has a lot of benefits to offer the America’s Cup.

  • Being a major airport hub in the world, it becomes easy for people to come to the 2017 America’s Cup here.
  • Chicago has an abundance of hotels and fantastic restaurants.
  • Larry Ellison, owner of the software company Oracle and the financial backer of 2013’s America’s Cup Winner Team Oracle is the world’s 5th richest man was born here in Chicago, on the South Side.
  • Chicago Yacht Club is no stranger to the America’s Cup, in 1987 it made the Heart of America Challenge in Fremantle, Australia with Midwest notable Buddy Melges (Zenda, WI) as Captain, and Chicago’s very own Richard Stearns in the crew.
  • In 1992 skippering America3, with Bill Koch alongside, Buddy Melges won the America’s Cup in San Diego, CA.
  • While the Windy City did not get it’s name from the wind, wind is the gasoline that makes these boats move.  The America’s Cup races have wind limits, with the “approximate average true wind speed is between five (5) and twenty-five (25) knots.”  Chicago can deliver that.
  • Chicago hosts the preeminent Chicago Match Race Center in Belmont Harbor where many regular folk, and most of the top Match Racing Sailors of the world come to compete.  Chicago is familiar to most America’s Cup sailors.
  • As of today, Donald Wilson of Chicago is the #1 male ranked match racer in the U.S.
  • As of today, Stephanie Roble of East Troy, WI is the #1 female ranked match racer in the U.S.
  • As of today, Taylor Canfield of Chicago is the #1 ranked match racer in the World.
  • The event will be sailed in what are called AC50’s.  These are 50-foot catamarans, with hard wing sails, and they will hydrofoil (the entire hull lifts up out of the water and skims on narrow foils underwater).  Boat speeds are expected to be above 40 knots, in 12 miles per hour of wind.  This is done in “Match Racing” format, where two boats race against each other at a time.  Here’s an example of what it would look like (without Alcatraz Island in the background, just some old cribs instead) –

  • Each team is limited to building one boat, except the defender – Oracle who is allowed to build two boats.  While this may seem unfair, the challengers will race against each other a lot honing their skills and tuning their boats of which one advances to the finals.  Team Oracle, as defender of the Cup, automatically is in the finals and won’t be sparring against any other Teams and will only practice against themselves.
  •  There are close to 7,000 boats in Chicago’s lakefront harbors, not including boats that can be ramp launched, come from other harbors around the Great Lakes and from around the world.  There would be one huge spectator fleet watching the Trials and the Finals.
  • Sailboat racing is huge on Lake Michigan, the Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation estimates that there are between 6,000 to 10,000 who race sailboats annually on the Lake.
  • There’s over 90 yacht clubs around the Lake, more on small inland lakes close by, and many do-good boating organizations too that can be tapped into.
  • By winning the opportunity Chicago will guarantee a World’s Championship in 2017, can the Chicago Cubs do that?

And this would be the America’s Cup second trip here to the Second City (click here for story) –


Glenn T. McCarthy, The America’s Cup, and Thomas F. Ehman, Jr. Director, of External Affairs for Oracle Racing in Chicago June 20, 2013.

Here’s San Francisco’s wrap-up after hosting the 34th America’s Cup in 2013

“Like” the “Bring the 35th America’s Cup to Chicago” Facebook page.

What do you think Chicago?  Can we become a contender and bring this major international event to the Windy City?  Add your comments –

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