January 28, 2002

Larry Ellison attempting to buy America's Cup.: Would you spend $85 million to win a trophy once created for just 100 guineas? Ellison is doing just that. How is it different from NY Yankees owner George Steinbrenner 'buying' a World Series by outspending everyone else? Well, by competing in the action himself. In addition to signing the checks, Ellison plans to helm the Oracle Racing yacht to victory. Is it ego or competitive drive?

posted by msacheson to general at 12:10 PM - 8 comments

I'm sure it's a little of both. As far as being different than Steinbrenner, I'd say Ellison's comparison to the yankees owner playing first base is a good analogy. If Ellison getting in on the action doesn't hurt his team, then I say go for it. If it does, well, it's his money (and his loss). You're right, though, we don't hear much about Ellison trying to buy the trophy (at least none I've heard) while griping about Steinbrenner's open wallet is rampant. I think the most obvious difference is that sailboat racing is a rich man's sport. Even in high school, the few people I knew who 'sailed' came from very rich backgrounds, thus producing a sport that comes from and depends on money regardless if you're 7 or 70. Baseball (or football, basketball etc...) does not rely on money near as much at the youth levels, so when it turns into big business and money becomes such a factor it doesn't feel like the same game played with the same values. Great link by the way.

posted by justgary at 12:22 AM on January 29

Thanks for your comments gary... I think I should have included a link to the main America's Cup site, and I will be following the news and developments leading up to the America's Cup. The challenger elimination series begin this fall (2002), with the finals in early 2003 pitting the challenger against the defender from Team New Zealand.

posted by msacheson at 11:00 AM on January 29

now if we could only convince bill g. to get in the deal, and a really really big storm....

posted by lescour at 05:32 PM on January 29

Let's not fool ourselves. If anyone could be defined as an egomaniac, it is Ellison. What Ellison may state and think is competition for the sake of sport is far more likely competition for the sake of his ego. He runs his yachts like a business, and the only profit is self-aggrandizement. There is very little money to be made directly from winning regattas (especially when you're Larry Ellison), even one as big as the America's Cup. It's ultimate reward is one of accomplishment and bragging rights. For Ellison, it is just another feather in his cap, a slew of press coverage for he and Oracle and also, much to the Board of Director's chagrin, a huge liability. Here's a little tidbit for you: At the end of every race, Ellison has a huge tender which picks him up minutes after crossing the finish line. His helicopter, which awaits on the tender, whisks him away to other destinations, leaving his entire crew behind to clean up after him. Of course, one should not feel too badly for the crew. They are hired hands, and extremely well paid ones at that. But, at the end of the day, they are not teammates, but employees. There's just something so incredibly wrong with that... justgary, while I will grant that sailing is not a poor man's sport (although some would argue that sailing makes a rich man poor), it is not the "rich man's sport" that it used to be. Only on the large boat circuit is that universally true. To have a big boat, you have to make big bucks. Most sailors I know (and I know hundreds and hundreds), are anything but rich. In fact, most I know are single, work in mid-level jobs and live in modest one or two bedrooms apartments. There are far more small boat owners than there are big boat owners... I just wanted to set the record straight on that. For the record, I've sailed since I was four years old and raced since the age of six. I sailed competitively in high school and in college (captain of my team). After college, I sailed professionally and coached a collegiate team (UCSB) before giving it all up to work in the Internet. Had I not made that move, I would most likely be living out my dream of sailing in the America's Cup with my friends. I miss my once-all-consuming-passion....

posted by fooljay at 01:22 PM on January 30

Geez, talk about a man's passion and he'll ramble on totally forgetting the point he was trying to make... Unlike baseball, the money spent on the America's Cup actually enhances the sport. When Steinbrenner "buys a team", as you say, they are still required to use the same baseballs and diamond. When money is spent on the America's cup, a great deal of it goes to technology. The America's Cup used to have some fairly complex and detailed algorithms which determine whether a boat was legal to race or not, but within those parameters you could still have a great deal of diversity (which is how Connor was able to have a much faster catamaran racing against a big slow aluminum monohull). These days, the boats are mostly one-design (International America's Cup Class boats), which limits big departures from the norm like, for instance, a Canard wing (a rudder placed at the front of the boat as in Tom Blackaller's USA challenge). However, where much of the money is being spent is in hull construction and surface technologies. Bruce Farr is truly a legendary designer and his discoveries and gains will be the gains of the entire sport as those technologies become widely implemented and adopted at every level.

posted by fooljay at 01:49 PM on January 30

Hey, no talk of sports or politics would be complete without speculation of conspiracy, right?! Last night, the Seattle Yacht Club "caught fire" and burned to the ground. The Seattle YC is home to the OneWorld Challenge syndicate, owned by Craig McCaw & Paul Allen. Would Ellison stoop to sabotage in order to drive out some old enemies in the world of business??

posted by fooljay at 02:04 PM on January 30

fooljay, thanks for your comments...I'll contact you offline sometime to talk some more sailing. Are you in the SF Bay Area? Anyway, it's good to know there'll be someone else around to talk sailing once in a while.

posted by msacheson at 12:17 AM on January 31

I'm in the Bay Area for the next four days. After that it'll be Seattle for a month. Then New Orleans and Austin (SXSW!) for a week each. After that Italy and the rest of Europe until I decide to come home. That is to say, in four days, I will be homeless... And msacheson, I agree. Nice to know that there are other sailors around. :-)

posted by fooljay at 01:11 AM on January 31

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