Sailing Fans Start Scoping Out San Francisco

With the America’s Cup sailing into San Francisco Bay next summer, some local homeowners with views of the race are renting out their homes to yachting fans willing to pay for a front-row seat.

SAN FRANCISCO — As this city gears up for the 34th America’s Cup next year, a race of a different kind has already begun: one to snag the best views of the sailing regatta. Peter Jacobsen, a semiretired dentist from Yountville, Calif., isn’t taking any chances when it comes to ensuring a view of the America’s Cup racecourse on San Francisco Bay. Dr. Jacobsen and his wife, Gwendolyn, last year paid $158,000 for a fractional interest in a one-bedroom unit at a ritzy condo development right by San Francisco’s waterfront.

Gilles Martin-Raget/America

The silver trophy for the America’s Cup was made by the London jeweler Garrard and was first awarded to the schooner America in 1851. The trophy, pictured here overlooking San Francisco, travels in a custom Louis Vuitton case and gets its own seat on airplanes, according to a spokeswoman from the America’s Cup Event Authority. The deal guarantees just 35 nights a year at the property—but importantly, a Bay-view unit for two weeks during the America’s Cup finals scheduled for September 2013.

The Jacobsens shelled out the six-figure sum even though they already own another fractional interest at the property that they bought for $182,000 in 2009. But that unit doesn’t have a guaranteed view, and with the regatta approaching, “we needed more time and it was an opportunity to lock in the perfect view,” says Dr. Jacobsen, 67 years old.

Guilain Grenier/ORACLE Racing

The Oracle Racing team practiced in the San Francisco Bay in 2012 on an AC45 wingsailed multihull boat, the forerunner to the bigger and faster boats known as the AC72s, which will contest the 2013 America’s Cup. More than a year before the event, sailing fans are scouting out prime vistas for the America’s Cup. The chase for best perch has inspired a real-estate scramble, with some agents setting up shop specifically to locate rooms with a view for elite clients. Other people are scoping out places closer to the action.

Rental prices for the America’s Cup are already soaring. Landlords are dangling options such as a $60,000-a-month rent for a home in the posh Pacific Heights neighborhood during the race. Although results remain to be seen, agents say prices could go as high as $100,000 a week during the finals. “It will be a real land-grab for the good stuff,” says Rick Teed of Sotheby’s International Realty.

The anticipated demand for a race view stems partly from the relative rarity of the America’s Cup taking place in America. The race hasn’t been held in the U.S. since 1995, and in recent years has taken place off the coast of New Zealand and Spain. (The race was named by the New York Yacht Club after the schooner America, which beat the British in a race in 1851.)

The Cup has never been held in San Francisco Bay, which race officials describe as a “natural amphitheater”—as opposed to the open ocean where the regatta usually takes place. That means some prime views of the event can be had from land this time rather than from the decks of spectator boats.

America’s Cup

The race is coming to San Francisco through the efforts of Oracle Corp. founder and chief executive Larry Ellison, whose yacht and sailing team won the 2010 America’s Cup in Valencia, Spain. The winner of the race, which is typically held every three to four years, decides where the next competition will take place. The billionaire also owns a home in San Francisco with first-class views of the Bay.

But Mr. Ellison may have an even better seat than that for the regatta. An America’s Cup spokeswoman says Mr. Ellison will be on board Oracle Racing’s boat during the races. Through a representative, Mr. Ellison, 67, declined to comment. The Cup itself, a sterling silver trophy that gets its own seat on airplanes, comes in a custom Louis Vuitton case and always travels with a companion, the Cup spokeswoman says. It is kept in a secret location when not on tour, she says, but will be displayed during the race in San Francisco.

The heady rental numbers are spurring some homeowners to try renting their home for the first time. Marjorie and Larry Schlenoff listed their 3,162-square-foot four-bedroom San Francisco home, which they have lived in since 1999, for $35,000 a month for a long-term lease encompassing the Cup period. For shorter stays around the time of the Cup, the price is higher: $15,000 a week, says Mrs. Schlenoff.

The view from Marjorie and Larry Schlenoff’s San Francisco home, which they are hoping to rent for $35,000 a month during the America’s Cup. “We’ve never rented our house,” says Mrs. Schlenoff, a psychoanalyst and nonprofit founder. But with the home’s vistas and location near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Yacht Club, she says she and her husband see the regatta as a unique opportunity and the house as a “business asset.”

She listed her home through rental agency ReLISTO, which has multiple homes available for the Cup, including a $3,500-a-month studio with no views to $60,000 a month for a 5,000-square-foot Pacific Heights house with panoramic Bay views. Charlie Martin, a real-estate agent in Sausalito, Calif., launched a group called RezLux in February specializing in Cup rentals. In addition to real-estate needs, he says he will also provide personal chefs and concierge services for the race. So far, he has handled calls from potential clients in England, Japan and New Zealand. “We’re starting to book,” he says.

Some homeowners say there is no way they will rent their home during the Cup because they want the panoramas for themselves. Venture capitalist and America’s Cup Organizing Committee member Tom Perkins, who owns a 60th-floor penthouse in San Francisco, will be watching the Cup from there.

Another view from the Schlenoffs’ San Francisco home
“It’ll be just about the best place to watch,” says Mr. Perkins, 80, adding that he plans to have “lots and lots of people over.” Mr. Perkins, who once owned one of the world’s most expensive yachts, dubbed the Maltese Falcon, says he has several pairs of binoculars and a World War II telescope ready for the festivities.

Others are plotting a cheaper course to view the regatta. Sean Randolph, president of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, says he plans to watch the Cup from a kayak in a buffer zone that will be created on San Francisco Bay for nonmotorized boats. While Mr. Randolph’s home in Marin County, north of San Francisco, has a view of the Bay, it doesn’t overlook the Cup’s racecourse, and he doesn’t want to shell out thousands of dollars to rent a property.

“In a kayak, you’re sort of participating because you’re on the water and you’re a little closer” to the action than on land, he says. For John Kostecki, a sailor on the Oracle sailing team, the best views of the race are free. In particular, he recommends a stretch of waterfront near the Marina Green, where spectators can get close enough to hear sailors’ conversations. “It’s quite deep and the boats can come quite close,” he says. Write to Sarah Tilton at A version of this article appeared April 25, 2012, on page A1 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Bay Watch: Sailing Fans Start Scoping Out San Francisco.