San Francisco America’s Cup
event encounters stormy waters
Other potential entrants train for the America’s Cup in Rhode Island in June, 2012. Visible are two Prada craft, the Artemis one and the Korean entry.
Credit: Ciorra Photography. Artist: Innocenzo Jimmy Ciorra
“LAG OF INTEREST,” “Exclusive race” were the words used Tuesday in headlines on Page A1 of the national edition of The New York Times for its story about the upcoming America’s Cup event set for late summer in San Francisco.
“…[W]ith just weeks left before the start of competition … only four teams have signed up … the smallest contingent in the race’s modern history and far fewer than the 15 organizers had predicted…” wrote Norimitsu Onishi in “When Billionaire Sets Rules, It’s An Exclusive Race.”
The race, being primarily arranged by multibillionaire Oracle founder Larry Ellison, is beset by problems – not the least of which was the fatal accident which claimed the life of a crewman in May.
Will the show go on as scheduled later in the summer?
A leading expert, who has covered all the preparations for the race in great detail for Wired Magazine, is emphatic.
Larry Ellison’s Oracle Team USA AC 72, to be skippered by James Spithill and Ben Ainslie, is seen capsized in the San Franciso Bay after a testing session on Oct. 16, 2012.
Photographer: Guilain Grenier
“THERE IS ZERO CHANCE that it will be canceled,” said Wired Reporter Adam Fisher in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
He explained that Ellison, the winner of the previous America’s Cup, has the privilege of writing the rules. He even selected the location – the first time the race is being held in the U.S.
Ellison seems to be making enemies left and right. The city/county of San Francisco is facing a $100 million expense if the event flops.
According to Fisher, the discontent is not new to the America’s Cup.
On Oct. 16, Fisher’s story “The Crash” described in great detail how Ellison’s “Team Oracle USA capsized its new $10 million boat in San Francisco Bay. The mishap had a chilling effect on the whole America’s Cup organization.”
He then detailed in more than 2,000 words how the disaster unfolded over 10 hours.
In our chat on Wednesday, he explained that the rules Ellison drew up were meant to be fair. “But this turned out not to be true,” he added.
The design for Ellison’s dangerous AC72 craft is more than just post-modern. The craft virtually flies above the water, Fisher explained. It is capable of doing 40 knots!
But two have already flipped over. And they are not easy to right again.
IT IS THE PROHIBITIVE COST that has limited the number of competitors in this year’s event. Fisher has reported each craft costs $10 million.
Of course Ellison can afford it. Forbes rates him the fourth richest man in the world – just behind Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. His net worth is estimated at $40 billion.
If Ellison wants the race to go on, he might just have to open his wallet a little wider.
“After all,” said Fisher, “Oracle paid for other teams in the World Series. The last thing Oracle wants is for others to drop out.”
One of the doubtful starters is Artemis Racing of Sweden. It was this team’s craft involved in the fatal accident on May 9.
If Artemis drops out, that leaves only three competitors. “My sources say Artemis will race,” Fisher said.
But, he added, the US Coast Guard could also not certify the race. “Then it would be off,” Fisher said,
As one who was planning to purchase my tickets soon, like many others must be, I am now adopting a wait-and-see attitude.
This could be a once in a lifetime experience – or a significant disaster. Stay tuned.