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RI emissary has high hopes for America's Cup

Mon, 02/22/2010 - 10:30am
ERIC TUCKER - Associated Press Writer - Associated Press

The president of the America's Cup Hall of Fame said Monday he remains "guardedly optimistic" about Newport's chances to host the next America's Cup sailing competition following a meeting with the billionaire software mogul who captured the trophy and gets to select the venue.

Halsey Herreshoff on Saturday delivered a letter stating Rhode Island's case to Larry Ellison, whose BMW Oracle Racing won back the America's Cup trophy for the United States off the coast of Valencia, Spain, last week.

The letter from Gov. Don Carcieri urges Ellison to consider returning the cup to Newport, which hosted the international sailing competition from 1930 to 1983, and boasts that the city is the sailing capital of the United States.

"We understand that you are looking for the best venue possible, and we look forward to making the case that there is no better place than Rhode Island," the governor wrote in the letter, which Herreshoff handed to Ellison in San Francisco during a victory tour of the oldest trophy in international sports.

Other cities in the running include San Francisco and San Diego, which has hosted three America's Cup Regattas. The competition for the cup looks formidable, at least judging by Ellison's public comments over the weekend; he called San Francisco his first choice for the venue during a celebration in that city, and later called San Diego a "fantastic alternative."

But Herreshoff said he remains convinced that Rhode Island, with open access to Narragansett Bay and an extensive marine trade industry, remains the best sailing environment in the country. He said he was left with "guardedly optimistic chances" about the state's prospects.

Ellison, the CEO of Oracle Corp., said a decision could be made within months. The next regatta could be held as soon as 2012, he said.

"He assured me this issue is still open and they're going to give every consideration to each of the places," Herreshoff said. "It's clear both in my direct conversations with him and what he said publicly that this is open between these three places."

Herreshoff, who has himself competed in four America's Cup regattas, is acting as Rhode Island's emissary in reaching out to Ellison. The governor's letter invokes the Ocean State's rich maritime heritage and argues that Rhode Island — where the unemployment rate is hovering at nearly 13 percent — has invaluable experience hosting the competition.

"We know what it takes to accommodate this world class event, and would welcome the opportunity to do so again," the letter states.

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