A year ago, Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison ditched his keynote presentation at his own customer conference to watch his sailing team clinch the America’s Cup. Winning the 2013 Cup was the biggest comeback in the 162-year history of the race.
This week, the actual Cup, the oldest sports trophy in the world, is on display San Francisco, under a huge canopy made from the winning boat itself.
To recap: The final race series was between Oracle America’s team and Emirates Team New Zealand in a best of 17 series (the first team to win 9 races, won). Oracle entered the finals down two “points” — two wins — from a penalty when Ellison’s team was caught cheating in the preliminary race series that led up to the finals. New Zealand quickly wracked up eight wins, and Oracle came from behind to take the Cup.
It was also a race wracked with controversy. The design was Ellison’s own for a superfast type of boat — a 72-foot catamaran called the AC72 — that was so expensive to build, Ellison effectively made the 2013 Cup too costly for all but a few teams. Ellison got to choose the boat design because he won the last Cup.
Each team reportedly spent at least $US65 million to $US100 million on the race, with Ellison outspending them all, reportedly pouring an estimated $US300 million into it.
These boats, capable of going 50 miles per hour (44 knots) were very dangerous. A British sailor on Sweden’s Artemis Racing was killed when his boat capsized during a practice session in the San Francisco Bay. Ellison lost a boat when it capsized. (The wrecked boat was reborn as an aeroplane.)
All this week, anyone attending the show can come by and look at the Cup at the center of it all.
The trophy was newly polished. It’s so shiny that the red carpet reflects off it.
The trophy travels with two guards, both wearing lapel pins that are mini-versions of the cup. They are full-time employees of a private security company. They wouldn’t tell us their names or the name of the company.
When not travelling, the cup is stored in a top-secret location.
The Cup is technically not Larry Ellison’s, either. It belongs to the Golden Gate Yacht Club.
There is one rule that governs it: No one can touch it with their bare hands. The guards wear white gloves.
If someone did try to touch it, “That’s when we would do our job,” one guard told us. “If things get too aggressive, we would take the Cup away.”
The catamaran that won the cup is unbelievably big.
Oracle has put it on display as a canopy for a lounge area. It reminds us of one those dinosaur exhibits at the Natural History Museum, except it’s modern and made with carbon fibre.
Here’s another view of the winning catamaran as it straddles Howard Street in San Francisco.