America's Cup Race to Receive L.B. Invitation

Times Staff Writer

Their chances may be no better than the Kookaburra III's, but several city officials and business leaders are attempting to bring the next America's Cup yacht race to Long Beach.

At the request of Mayor Ernie Kell, the City Council Tuesday voted unanimously to appoint a committee of private citizens that will represent Long Beach in a battle to wrest sponsorship of the cup race from San Diego and at least four other cities that have expressed an interest in holding the prestigious, 134-year-old event in either 1990 or 1991.

While San Diego is the acknowledged front-runner, other reported competitors include Newport, R.I., Hawaii, San Francisco and New Orleans.

The choice of where to hold the race will be made by Dennis Conner's victorious San Diego Yacht Club, and Conner's fund-raising organization, the Sail America Syndicate.

Officials of both organizations were in Washington and New York City this week participating in events honoring Conner and the crew of the Stars & Stripes and could not be reached for comment.

Winds, Viewing Favored

In an interview, Kell said Long Beach has a realistic chance of landing the cup race. "We have better winds and a better viewing area for spectators than San Diego," Kell said.

The man who Kell has asked to lead the city's effort, however, was less optimistic.

James H. Ackerman, a trustee for the Orange County-based Eagle Syndicate, an unsuccessful cup challenger this year, said that although Long Beach has many advantages, it is facing a "very uphill battle."

"It's a long shot," said Ackerman, a Long Beach attorney.

Ackerman, however, said that there are two reasons why another city besides San Diego may end up holding the next cup race. First, Conner has discussed other locations for the next race, and second, there is a "general conception that the winds in San Diego are too light and too inconsistent," Ackerman said.

While San Diego winds are as light as 5 to 6 knots, Long Beach has consistent daily winds of 15 to 20 knots, Ackerman said.

San Diego City Councilman Bill Cleater took exception to Kell's and Ackerman's remarks about his city's winds.

"I think politicians can predict their own wind accurately, but I don't think they are accurate predicting coastal breezes," Cleater said Wednesday.

Cleater, however, said he expects that the San Diego Yacht Club and yacht syndicate would "have to take a serious look" at Long Beach's proposal.

Cleater said while Conner has spoken about other locations for the race, he said that the decision is not up to Conner and that San Diego is the best possible location for the next cup race.

Breezes More Variable

Paul Downey, press secretary for San Diego Mayor Maureen O'Connor, said that San Diego winds are more variable than those at Fremantle, Australia, where the cup races were held, ending this month.

He also said that San Diego would be the best location for the next America's Cup race and that O'Connor is "110% behind keeping the America's Cup race" there. O'Connor, who flew to New York to ride in a ticker-tape parade in Conner's honor, could not be reached for comment.

Ackerman and Long Beach city officials said that city is a logical place for the America's Cup because in the past it has sponsored Olympic yacht racing and the annual Congressional Cup match racing series.

"It's an ideal place to have it (the America's Cup race)," Ackerman said, adding that Long Beach's advantages include its marina, shipyards and port.

Other members of the committee that will seek the America's Cup race will be appointed this week and submitted to the council for approval Feb. 17, Kell said. Within a few weeks, the committee will meet with officials of the San Diego Yacht Club and Sail America syndicate to extol the virtues of Long Beach. In the unlikely event that the city is chosen, it would donate its facilities to the San Diego Yacht Club, which would remain the host of the cup defense, Ackerman said.

The committee's next goal would be to raise approximately $2 million in private funds to pay for the event's expenses. It would be well worth the investment, Ackerman said. According to a 1985 study done for Ackerman's Eagle syndicate, an America's Cup would have a total impact of $1 billion on the Southern California economy. The study was done by the Center for Economic Research at the School of Business and Management at Chapman College in Orange County.

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