World’s top sailing event under
cloudy skies in San Francisco
THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS yacht race on earth – the America’s Cup – begins its finals today on San Francisco Bay.
Larry Ellison’s Team Oracle USA AC 72 makes a stunning portrait with the San Francisco skyline as the backdrop. Click image to enlarge.
But, instead of pristine blue skies and the famous backdrop of the (formerly) TransAmerica Pyramid skyscraper, the race begins under cloudy skies, thanks to overreach and the enormous ego of the second richest man alive.
Here are some rarely seen images that reveal the reasons why the race is clouded by controversy and danger.
THIS ISN’T THE FIRST time we have reported “cloudy skies” surrounding the top sailing event on the maritime calendar. Most recently, on Aug. 5, we reported in World’s premier yacht race clouded with uncertainty about the dangerous and hugely expensive craft ordered up by Larry Ellison, Oracle CEO, who as current holder of the cup is entitled to set the rules for the race.
A crewman perished when Sweden’s Team Artemis AC 72 tipped over in San Francisco Bay in May. Click image to enlarge.
Well, it has not turned out so well for the race, the other three competitors (can they still call it a “race” with only four entrants?) or, indeed, the taxpayers of San Francisco, who are on the hook for a cool $100 million or more.
Ellison required each entry to be an AC 72, a space-age catamaran that – literally – flies above the water at speeds approaching 50 m.p.h.
Rome Kirby is a sailor, a member of Team Oracle USA. Click image to enlarge.
Imagine you are Rome Kirby, a crewman for Oracle Team USA, separated by mere inches from the icy water of San Francisco Bay skimming past and 50 m.p.h. Don’t try this at home, please!
Suddenly, without warning the craft does something no other has ever done: it flips, head over heels, into the bay.
The image on this page captures the October, 2012 mishap – the craft is half way on its flip upside down. It must have been humbling, indeed, for the entire crew that day to be forced to abandon ship.
Not so for the boss, Mister Ellison, who pursued his ambition with the same single-minded ruthlessness as he built the huge software company he advertises through the sailing craft hitherto unknown to man.
It was, however, the May disaster suffered by Artemis Racing of Sweden that really captured everyone’s attention when it’s entry capsized, trapping a crewman underneath. He died.
It was the first such death ever recorded in America’s Cup history. And it shocked the sailing fraternity around the globe.
Was the AC 72 too unsafe to sail – at any speed?
Team Oracle’s craft was the first to flip in October, 2012. Here it is seen half way over. Click image to enlarge.
THE JURY IS STILL OUT on that, but there can be no question that the $100 million “entry fee” for each competing team has kept many out of the running.
The AC 72 itself costs upwards of $40 million; the rest goes to salaries for the crew and support staff required for the months of training and practice on San Francisco Bay.
Sure, Ellison could take that amount out of petty cash. But can Team New Zealand? I suppose Prada makes a sufficiently huge profit margin on its brand name that it can afford it.
Miuccia Prace and Patrisio Bertelli, Italian millionaires, reportedly invested in 40 million euros in Team Prada’s entry. Click image to enlarge.
But who knows how many other potential competitors took one look at the bottom line – and walked away?
Furthermore, what about those of us in the sailing community (I have been ASA certified since 1999) who so looked forward to an event like this on one of the most scenic waterways on earth?
Few spots can compare to the backdrop afforded by the skyline of San Francisco, the brand new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (which opened to traffic just this week) and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
But it all came to almost naught.
As the finals get under way this morning just four hours drive from my home, I will be otherwise preoccupied. So will most others.
The debris left behind in the City by the Bay should be cleaned up, personally, by Ellison. I would just love to see him, mop and pail in hand, on Fisherman’s Wharf cleaning up the mess he created. Wouldn’t you?
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