Champions: Oracle Team USA won the 2013 America’s Cup. *AFP photo
Champions: Oracle Team USA won the 2013 America’s Cup. *AFP photo

Bermuda officials met representatives from Russell Coutts’ America’s Cup champions Oracle Team USA yesterday as the battle to stage the 2017 event continued.

A source told the Bermuda Sun the site visit was ‘positive’ as the island looks to edge out other remaining contenders Chicago and San Diego.

Oracle CEO and skipper Coutts confirmed this week that San Francisco, which staged the epic 2013 contest that saw Oracle complete a famous comeback to beat Team New Zealand, was out of the running as the city refused to take another financial hit. Reports suggest they lost $11.5 million of public money in staging the historic event.

Bermuda were invited to apply this time around and Coutts is a fan of the island, having competed here numerous times over his career. The Bermuda Tourism Authority and Dr Grant Gibbons, minister for economic development, who is leading the bid, have remained cautious on the visit, not wanting anything to harm Bermuda’s campaign.

However, the news that Bermuda has made it to the last three — it will be whittled down to two by the end of the month — has not been met with universal approval in the sailing community.

Sailinganarchy.com, in particular, was scathing in its view of Bermuda as a suitable host venue.

A post read: “Far be it for us to criticize the business acumen of a guy who just spent more money on a per-spectator/per-viewer basis than anyone in the history of sport with almost nothing to show for it, but is an island nation that has lost more than a third of its hotel rooms since 1990 and that, according to most sources, has less than 10,000 beds and 4,000 rooms, a good choice to host what they called a couple of years ago, the ‘third most economically valuable sporting event in the world?’  Remember, this is an island where literally everything needs to be flown in from elsewhere, and it has one of the highest costs of living on Earth.”

It added: “Did Coutts finally come to the decision that millions of poor, downtrodden masses will never make the Cup pay? 

“Can the Cup reach commercial nirvana by catering only to the kind of ultra-rich folks who own super yachts and can write off million-dollar trips to schmooze in VIP tents in Bermuda?”

Bermuda resident and retired sailing coach Paul Doughty disagreed and said Bermuda would be a superb venue, pointing to the experience the local clubs have in staging global events (Argo Gold Cup, Newport Bermuda etc) and the timezone as hugely beneficial to TV audiences.

“I think it would be a tremendous shot in the arm for Bermuda,” said Doughty, who made it clear he was not speaking in any official capacity for Bermuda sailing or the Royal Bermuda Yahct Club, where he is a member.

“In terms of world exposure, it’s massive. Every single yacht club in Europe would see us and the incredible place that we sail in.

“We’ll have to see. From the outside, looking in and if I take myself back from being partial towards Bermuda, I think we have a chance, a 30 per cent chance at least.”

He added: “The people who make such naïve comments, such as the one on Sailing Anarchy, have no idea what this tiny island gave the sailing world.

“They also have no idea how well connected we are to those at the top of sailing and how well respected we are within the ISAF and world sailing community.

“We are not just coming from nowhere. Bermuda is, through the late Jordi Walker, the conceptual place and a founder of the World Match Racing Tour.”

Ben Ainslie Racing and Lunar Rossa have already officially declared their challenge to Oracle Team USA.