City Hopes Stronger Winds Will Blow Event Its Way : Long Beach Puts in Bid for America's Cup Defense

Times Staff Writer

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

At the request of Mayor Ernie Kell, the Long Beach City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to appoint a committee of private citizens that will represent the city 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, 136-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 Stars & Stripes, and could not be reached for comment.

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 whom 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."

However, the Long Beach attorney said 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," according to Ackerman.

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 Cleator 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," Cleator said Wednesday.

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

Cleator said that, 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.

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 over the last few months.

He also said that San Diego would be the best location for the next America's Cup race and that O'Connor, in New York as part of the celebrations honoring Connor, is "110% behind keeping the America's Cup race" in San Diego.

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

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

Within a few weeks, the committee will meet with officials of the San Diego Yacht Club and Sail America 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 about $2 million in private funds to pay for the event. 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 the City of Orange.

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