San Pedro Hoping Cup Runneth Over

Times Staff Writer

The America’s Cup defense is expected to be held in San Pedro Bay in September, and while it appears that Long Beach will be host for the world-famous yacht competition, its impact could spill over into nearby San Pedro--in the form of money, tourists and traffic.

Los Angeles officials acknowledge that Long Beach, with its convention center and major hotels, is far better suited for the international event and the extensive media coverage it will draw than San Pedro. An aide to Los Angeles Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, who represents San Pedro, said “everybody has realized that we just don’t have the facilities to accommodate their needs.”

But that won’t keep San Pedro businesses from trying to capitalize on the yacht race, which has brought renown to Newport, R. I., and Fremantle, Australia, previous sites for the sailing event.

The Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club is hoping to lure New Zealand’s entry in the race to its marina in San Pedro.


Bill Steel, commodore of the yacht club, said his organization has sent a letter to Michael Fay, who is backing the New Zealand effort, offering to provide dock space. In addition, Steel said, the San Pedro Boat Works has agreed to make its shipyard available to the New Zealanders.

He said he has not heard from Fay but hopes to talk to the New Zealander when Fay speaks before a yacht club in Marina del Rey in several weeks.

Look-Out Spot

Although the course for the race has not been announced, San Pedro’s hilly Point Fermin is the only spot along the bay where people could easily see the regatta from land, said Leron Gubler, executive director of the San Pedro Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.

“San Pedro will be the best viewing location for this race,” Gubler said.

If the race, which will take place over several days, does pass by Point Fermin, Gubler said, it could have “a tremendous impact on our community. . . . It’s a big opportunity for the community, but it’s also going to take a lot of work.”

He said he hopes to set up a citizens committee to plan for the event and coordinate activities with the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce. San Pedro restaurants and hotels will hopefully benefit from the event, he added.

But the race could bring problems as well. Because Point Fermin is at the tip of the San Pedro Peninsula, there is only one easy way to get to it and Gubler said he is worried about major traffic problems.


L. A. Caught Off Guard

“We will have to do some sort of logistical planning, or it’s going to be complete gridlock,” he said.

The announcement Friday that the San Diego Yacht Club plans to defend the America’s Cup in San Pedro Bay, rather than off San Diego, took Los Angeles officials by surprise. Several officials interviewed said they are not sure what, if anything, the city will do to accommodate the race.

“I just read about it yesterday,” said Christine Ung, harbor area coordinator for Mayor Tom Bradley on Tuesday. “At this point, we’re still exploring. . . . I really don’t have anything to report at this point.”


Sail America, the nonprofit organization running the race for the San Diego Yacht Club, said San Pedro Bay was chosen because the winds there are better than in San Diego. A spokeswoman for Sail America said Wednesday that San Pedro’s role is unclear because the group has not chosen a host city or a course for the race.”

Those who recall the America’s Cup as a global competition may be disappointed. The September race is a special defense, in which the United States will attempt to fend off a challenge from New Zealand. The next multinational event is to take place in San Diego in 1991.

The reason for this year’s special defense is a court challenge to the America’s Cup rules by New Zealand merchant banker Fay, who backed his country’s first entry in the regatta last year.

Originally, the San Diego Yacht Club planned to defend the cup--which it won back from Australia last year--in San Diego in 1991. Fay challenged those plans under strict interpretation of the 100-year-old Deed of Trust that governs the America’s Cup. He won a favorable ruling from a New York court that allows him to try to wrest the cup from the Americans this September.


The San Diego Yacht Club hopes to dispense quickly with Fay’s boat in San Pedro Bay and then get on to the international competition in 1991.

Fay has criticized the decision to move the race up the coast from San Diego. If he sues, the race could be delayed and may be held in San Diego after all.

Worldwide Coverage

If the San Pedro Bay plan goes through, Sail America expects 2,500 to 5,000 journalists from all over the world to cover the race. In its negotiations with Long Beach officials, the organization has asked for headquarters offices for the sailing teams, a tourism center, referees’ and officials’ stations on the water, 200 hotel rooms, luxury condominiums and houses, and a 20,000- to 40,000-square-foot media center with extensive areas for television broadcast equipment.


Times staff writer Chris Woodyard contributed to this story.