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Oracle leader wants to bring sailing to the people

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The America’s Cup has long been an elite regatta, but when framed by Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge, it will become a sport for the masses.

That is the vision that billionaire Larry Ellison and the leaders of his yacht-racing team, Oracle Racing, articulated Wednesday to about 200 sailing aficionados and others at City Hall, celebrating his choice of San Francisco as the 2013 event’s venue.

Team leaders said the races will be short — 45 minutes each — and could involve a lap around Alcatraz and then a race up to a mile past the Golden Gate.

Mayor Gavin Newsom and Ellison both spoke at the event, which capped off more than 10 months of sometimes-strained negotiations between the team and city officials. In mid-December, The City floated a host agreement, unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors. That proposal continued to change right up to the team’s self-imposed Friday deadline.

In a brief Q-and-A period after the event, both Ellison and Newsom defended the last-minute changes, which provided fewer guarantees of revenue for The City and obligated it to sell public land to Ellison, if legally possible. Newsom said they were not much different than the labor negotiations he has sat through. Ellison said talks needed to continue until the last minute because the team had been expected to rehab one set of piers, and an entirely different set of piers was ultimately proposed.


kworth@sfexaminer.com