A major international regatta is coming to San Diego for the first time since the 1995 America's Cup.
Organizers will announce Friday that the RC 44 Championship Tour season opener, featuring several America's Cup sailors, will take place on San Diego Bay from March 2-6.
The RC 44 is a high-performance, 44-foot sloop co-designed by four-time America's Cup winner Russell Coutts of New Zealand. Coutts skippered Team New Zealand to a five-race sweep of Dennis Conner off San Diego in 1995 to claim the America's Cup.
Coutts is CEO of San Francisco-based BMW Oracle Racing, which won the 33rd America's Cup in February. Coutts and BMW Oracle Racing's owner, software tycoon Larry Ellison, are expected to compete in the San Diego regatta. Coutts still has a home on Coronado, across the bay from San Diego.
BMW Oracle Racing tested its monster trimaran in San Diego for 16 months before lifting the America's Cup off Alinghi of Switzerland in a two-race sweep off Valencia, Spain.
Among the groups expected to compete in San Diego are Italy's Mascalzone Latino, the Challenger of Record for the 34th America's Cup, and Sweden's Artemis Racing, which will announce Monday it is challenging for the America's Cup.
Artemis Racing's CEO is Paul Cayard, who lives near San Francisco and is a veteran of the America's Cup and Olympics, and in 1998 became the first American skipper to win the Whitbread Round the World Race. Artemis' helmsman is Terry Hutchinson of Annapolis, Md., the tactician for Team New Zealand in the 2007 America's Cup, won 5-2 by Alinghi.
The RC 44 Championship Tour has been sailed since 2006 in Europe and Dubai. The first RC 44 regatta in the United States will be in Miami from Dec. 7-12.
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders lobbied Ellison to stage the 2013 America's Cup in San Diego, which hosted sailing's marquee event three times from 1988-95. San Diego didn't make the cut, though, as BMW Oracle Racing is considering bids from San Francisco, Valencia and Italy.
The next America's Cup will be sailed in 72-foot catamarans with wing sails.