SailingMahlon

Larry Ellison, Team Oracle, the America’s Cup World Series

SailingMahlon

It has been painful being in the states at the same time as the America’s Cup World Series and not be able to attend.  New Zealanders by and large love sailing, and the love of sailing starts often for children before the age of ten.  When the cup was raced in New Zealand it was bigger here than Nascar is in the USA, or the Tour de France.   Auckland is “The City of Sails”. An Ellison venture, The America's Cup World Series last week was an excellent primer for the coolest, costliest and most technologically advanced sport on the planet featured the same teams, and courses you will see in San Francisco next year. Larry Ellison and Team Oracle won the last America’s Cup, a 4-foot-tall, 33-pound, sterling-silver trophy, in 2010.  One of the eccentricities of the oldest trophy in sport is whoever holds the cup controls the next race.

Tech execs love disruption, innovation, and change.  The first thing Ellison did was toss more than 150 years of tradition overboard. The boats we’ll see racing next year are wind fueled hyper drive machines by comparison.  Wing-sailed catamarans, high-tech carbon fiber giants far faster and more punishing than anything ever raced before in the Cup.

Have you ever seen the Thomas Crown Affair scene where Peirce Brosnan capsizes a catamaran?  The scene has issues and is not technically correct, but it does illustrate the thrilling proposition of racing a cat.  Except these Catamaran’s are huge!

The AC45, named for its length, is 70 feet tall, 22.6 feet wide and weighs 3,086 pounds. It takes five people to race one. Now process this, they are half-size versions of the boats racing next year in Cup races.  The AC72 is bigger, faster and meaner, with a crew of 11 and a top speed north of 30 knots.

Several of the sailors are clients, or I have photographed them at one time or another for media or charity.  Pierluigi de Felice, Brian "Puc" MacInnes, and Russell Coutts are among those coming to mind as I type.  All good men I hold in exceptionally high regard for their strength of character, work ethic, and family focus.

Knowing these athletes personally, I feel their wins and losses personally so it can be a very conflicting experience watching these races.  I've been privileged to be on the large launches rented by Ellison for team members family and friends to follow the race on the water.  When the race was in New Zealand I was on the Oracle team’s family and friends launch while Barker and Team New Zealand lost, twice.  Gut wrenching.  Yet pleased for the sailors I know on  Oracle's side.

Similarly, now I feel pleased Emirates Team NZ that they made it into the semi-finals, and disappointed they did not show in the finals.  The two Luna Rossa teams sailed well. It would have been much more exciting if Oracle had raced outside team in the finals.

Another ACWS regatta will be held on San Francisco Bay from Oct. 2-7.  The real race for the Cup starts next summer 2013, and unless someone hires me to be in San Francisco at the same time (anyone) I will be on the edge of my seat in front of a screen catching as much as I can.  Believe me.  I'll be working over time trying to get myself to SF for the Cup Races in 2013.