Only four foreign challengers met the deadline to enter the Louis Vuitton Cup next summer to determine the opponent for Oracle Racing in the 34th America's Cup, though officials insist the host city can still expect a huge economic boost of about $1 billion and 8,000 new jobs.
Organizers originally estimated a $1.4 billion economic shot in the arm and 9,000 new jobs when San Francisco was announced as the host city in late 2011. But that's when as many as 14 sailing teams expressed interest in challenging billionaire Larry Ellison's team for the America's Cup trophy. Since then, plans to refurbish two dilapidated piers on the city's central waterfront fell through, taking with it 800 or so expected new jobs.
Organizers knew the numbers would shake out from the original list of 14 challengers from around the globe. The sluggish world economy and a switch from sloops to catamarans caused several syndicates to drop out.
Still, 55 days of racing are expected, including an expanded finals match plus Ellison's plan to race his two America's Cup-eligible boats while the challengers compete amongst themselves for the right to take on the defending champions. Ellison's team won yachting's most prestigious trophy in 2010, winning along with it the right to name the host city for the defense.
The four teams that are entered as challengers are Sweden's Artemis Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand, Italy's Luna Rossa Challenge and Team Korea.
Stephen Barclay, chief executive of the America's Cup race, laid much of the blame for the turnout on the world's fragile economy. Competing teams can spend more than $100 million to construct and race the space-age 72-foot dual-hull boats.
``It's fair to say that we would have liked more'' entries, Barclay said.
Teams must now finish building the catamarans that will be used next summer.
The French Energy Team announced Monday that it would skip this America's Cup to prepare for the next, citing money woes. It was the second French team to drop plans to challenge next year as other teams from China, Italy and elsewhere pulled out along the way.
``We want to be playing to win and in this instance we have run out of time for 2013,'' said Bruno Peyron, who along with his brother heads the Energy Team.
The team from South Korea ponied up the $200,000 entry fee before the midnight deadline Monday, but it's the only team not to start construction on its boat, fueling speculation of another drop out.
Barclay and other organizers at a waterfront press conference in San Francisco said they were optimistic the Koreans will compete.
Team Korea's skipper, Australia's Nathan Outteridge, is leading the 49er class in the London Olympics.
The challengers will compete for the Louis Vuitton Cup from July 4 through Sept. 1, 2013, on San Francisco Bay. The winner then takes on Ellison's team for the America's Cup from Sept. 7-22.
In a change to the old format in which a team needed to win five races to win the America's Cup, there will be two races per day, with nine victories required to win the oldest trophy in international sports.
The catamarans will race just off the city's northern waterfront in between famed tourist attractions Alcatraz Island and Fisherman's Wharf, giving the expected millions of spectators the closest look at an America's Cup competition. Historically, the races were held many miles from the shore.
Television will also play a large role. The course's length and shape will alter according to the needs of the live broadcasts, organizers said.
Oracle Racing says it will hold defender trials to strengthen its bid to defend the Cup. Jimmy Spithill, who skippered the team to victory in the 33rd America's Cup, will helm one of the boats, while Ben Ainslie, the British star who's currently trying to win his fourth straight Olympic gold medal, will helm the other. They will go head to head on the same course and on the same days as the Louis Vuitton Cup challengers.
Currently, the separate America's Cup World Series is being contested in 45-foot catamarans and the circuit visits San Francisco later this month.