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Sailing: Oracle Team USA beats New Zealand to keep America’s Cup

San Francisco • The big black cat almost used up its last life at the start, burying its bows in a wave and falling behind a boatload of Kiwis.

Of course, it was only fitting in this America’s Cup that Oracle Team USA would need to survive near-defeat again.

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With one last spectacular push in a winner-take-all finale Wednesday, the United States managed to hang onto the Auld Mug in closing out the longest, fastest and, by far, wildest America’s Cup ever with one of the greatest comebacks in sports.

“I’m going to rank it No. 1. We never gave up,” skipper Jimmy Spithill said.

Spithill steered Oracle’s space-age, 72-foot catamaran to its eighth straight victory, speeding past Dean Barker and Team New Zealand sailing upwind in Race 19 on a San Francisco Bay course bordered by the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the Embarcadero.

All but defeated a week ago, the 34-year-old Australian and his international crew twice rallied from seven-point deficits to win 9-8. Owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, Oracle Team USA was docked two points for illegally modifying boats in warmup regattas and had to win 11 races to keep the trophy.

For eight races, they sailed with no margin for error in a new class of boats that had a learning curve that was almost straight up.

“There’s nothing like going all in,” Spithill said. “I’m so proud of the boys. … They didn’t flinch.”

It could have been over shortly after the start Wednesday just inside the Golden Gate Bridge.

Oracle’s hulking black catamaran — with a giant No. 17 on each hull — buried its twin bows in a wave approaching the first mark and Barker turned his red-and-black cat around the buoy with a 7-second lead.

“We just knew it was going to be a tough race,” Spithill said. “I just have so much confidence in the boys on board and the boat. When you sail these boats, you’re on the edge. You really red-line them the whole way. They keep you on your toes. It’s a very demanding boat but it’s very rewarding at the same time.”

The New Zealanders were game despite being stranded on match point for a week. Spithill and crew still had to sail their best to keep from becoming the third American loser in 30 years. Oracle narrowed Team New Zealand’s lead to 3 seconds turning onto the third leg, the only time the boats sail into the wind.

New Zealand had the lead the first time the boats crossed on opposite tacks. By the time they crossed again, the American boat — with only one American on its 11-man crew — had the lead.

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Ellison’s Oracle Team USA was within an inch of losing the world’s oldest international sporting trophy to Emirates Team New Zealand just a week ago, only to come back on Thursday with the eighth straight race it needed to retain the Cup.

The epic battle over the past few days has been a major vindication of the Silicon Valley entrepreneur’s much-maligned vision of how to modernize the competition.

For months ahead of September’s 34th America’s Cup finals, Ellison, known for his brash personality and aggressive business tactics, weathered near-constant criticism over the cost, complexity and potential dangers of the 72-foot catamarans he chose for the event.

Only three teams ultimately challenged Oracle, and a British sailor was killed when the Swedish team’s AC72 broke apart and capsized in May.

“There was a lot of criticism about these boats,” Ellison told reporters on Thursday. “I thought that rather than me personally responding, it would be up to the guys ultimately to show what these boats are like on the water. Let the regatta get started and let the people judge.”

And spectators ultimately ruled in Ellison’s favor, partly because he brought the regatta, historically held miles out to sea, into San Francisco Bay where strolling tourists and die-hard sailing aficionados could watch the races up close.

“This regatta has changed sailing forever,” he beamed at a news conference, flanked by Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill and the 162-year-old trophy.

Sailing has been in Ellison’s blood for about as long as Oracle has.

When he moved in the 1960s from Chicago to northern California, where he would eventually launch Oracle Corp , the future tycoon lived on a modest sailboat moored in Berkeley Marina until he ran out of money and had to sell it.

In 1998, Ellison was aboard his maxi yacht Sayonara when its won the 630-nautical mile (724 mile) Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, which turned tragic when a storm killed six people and destroyed several boats.

He brought this year’s regatta to San Francisco after his team in 2010 beat Swiss biotechnology billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi in a bitter America’s Cup battle fought as much by Ellison’s lawyers as by his sailors.

Oracle Team USA’s determination against all odds is also a fitting metaphor for challenges that four-decade-old Oracle now faces against a sea of smaller, aggressive technology rivals.

Ellison’s sailing team has been a convenient marketing tool for Oracle for years, but the style in which it won this year’s Cup – excelling when the chips were down – now gives him a powerful image to convey to shareholders worried that the No. 3 software company is in danger of losing its lead to younger competitors.

“Its historic comeback against the odds in this race speaks to the character of both Larry and his company. This sends an important message to customers that Larry and Oracle never give up,” said FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives.

While Ellison watched his team from a speedboat this week, Oracle has been holding its annual customer conference at a nearby San Francisco convention center, with over 60,000 people registered for the event. He even skipped his keynote speech when it conflicted with a race.

But Oracle kept the regatta front and center at the event, making attendees acutely aware of the crew’s progress on the water by piping TV commentary into lounges and leading cheers to support the team.

Thursday’s victory entitles Ellison and his team to again change the rules and venue for the next Cup, should they choose.

Emirates Team New Zealand spent about $100 million on its failed America’s Cup campaign, and while Ellison refused to comment on suggestions he spent much more than that, he agreed that costs must be brought down in order to attract more challengers to future regattas.

“It’s no secret these boats are expensive. We’d like to have more countries competing next time, so we’re going to have to figure out how to accomplish both – getting more countries competing while keeping it spectacular.”

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America’s Cup was 21st century adrenaline rush

Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts got it right. The staid old America’s Cup can be an adrenaline rush.

On the brink of an embarrassing blowout, Oracle Team USA hooked into a wild ride around San Francisco Bay at 40 mph that didn’t end until its fast, black catamaran had pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in sports.

Down 8-1, Oracle won eight straight races to keep the America’s Cup in America and send Emirates Team New Zealand back Down Under to ponder its collapse.

The biggest winner was probably the overall image of the oldest trophy in international sports, which has been swept fully into the 21st century thanks to thrilling boats and hot-shot sailors who sometimes struggle to keep the big beasts under control.

“I think a lot of people who were never interested in sailing suddenly got interested in sailing,” Ellison, the software billionaire who owns Oracle Team USA, said after the American boat kept the Cup with one final thrilling win on Wednesday.

Mainstream interest spiked because of Oracle’s almost unimaginable comeback, the 72-foot catamarans that would pop up on hydrofoils and speed above the waves, their hulls completely out of the water, and the scenic backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.

Now comes the challenging part for Ellison and Coutts, a New Zealander who has won the America’s Cup five times, three as a skipper and twice as Oracle Team USA’s CEO.

Oracle Team USA will have to decide whether the America’s Cup remains in San Francisco and whether the AC72 catamarans return or are downsized.

This was the first America’s Cup sailed inshore rather than miles out to sea, making it more accessible to fans and TV viewers. While Ellison has raved about San Francisco Bay as a natural amphitheater, organizers ran into vocal political opposition, lawsuits and community protests over the public cost of the event to the city’s treasury and environment.

Ellison joked that the next America’s Cup will be around the Hawaiian island of Lanai, most of which he owns.

The Cup could be back in San Francisco, or it could go to Hawaii or the highest bidder. After Oracle won the silver trophy in 2010, there were reports Ellison was interested in holding the regatta in Italy.

“I think this regatta was the most magnificent spectacle I’ve ever seen on the water,” said Ellison, a long-time sailor. “San Francisco Bay is a great backdrop for a sailboat race. These 40-plus-knot catamarans are absolutely amazing.”

As for the boats, many feel it would be crazy not to keep sailing the America’s Cup in fast catamarans.

While the big cats were thrilling, they’re expensive, hard to sail and require huge shore crews simply to launch and retrieve. If catamarans return, there’s a chance they’d be smaller than the AC72s but bigger than the 45-footers that were sailed in warmup regattas called the America’s Cup World Series.

Ellison said organizers have to figure out how to reduce costs to get more teams involved. Only Oracle and three challengers built 72-foot catamarans. One of the challengers, Artemis Racing, was never a factor after its first boat was destroyed in a capsize that killed British double Olympic medalist Andrew “Bart” Simpson during a training run on May 9. While a cause has never been announced, it’s believed the boat crashed because of a design flaw.

British Olympic star Ben Ainslie, who replaced John Kostecki as tactician after Oracle lost four of the first five races, said sailing the AC72s changed his mind about the future of the America’s Cup.

“If you asked me that question three months ago, I would have said match racing in monohulls is still for me preferable,” said Ainslie, who has four Olympic gold medals and one silver and hopes to launch a British challenger for the next America’s Cup. “But after what we’ve seen with this final, it’s just been breathtaking. I think to be talking about trying to make sailing a more popular sport for the future, then this is clearly the route. I think if you saw fleet racing in these types of boats it would be better still.”

Ellison said Oracle has accepted a challenge from a foreign yacht club that will serve as challenger of record to help make decisions about the future. Oracle hasn’t identified that yacht club, but it’s believed to be from Australia.

Oracle had to overcome a capsize last fall that damaged its first catamaran and a scandal involving illegal modifications of boats during the America’s Cup World Series that resulted in an international jury docking it two points in the finals and booting wing trimmer Dirk de Ridder.

Not only did that mean Oracle had to win 11 races to keep the America’s Cup, but it found out its boat was slower than the Kiwi catamaran.

While skipper Jimmy Spithill — now a two-time Cup winner — kept the sailing team focused, Coutts helped figure out ways to make the boat sail much faster upwind than Team New Zealand, which left the Kiwis deflated and defeated.

Coutts also had a hand in the decision to put Ainslie on the boat. Spithill, Ainslie and strategist Tom Slingsby, also an Olympic gold medalist, are three of the world’s most intensely competitive sailors, which contributed to Oracle’s comeback.

When things were going bad, some people wondered if Coutts would survive this campaign.

“Of course Russell Coutts will keep his job for as long as he wants it,” Ellison said. “Russell Coutts has never lost an America’s Cup. Not a bad record. As long as Russell wants this job, we’re blessed to have him.”

On Sept. 18, the Kiwis were at match point. A week later, Oracle Team USA was the winner.

“This regatta has changed sailing forever,” Ellison said.


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August boat sales top analyst projections

August boat sales top analyst projections

Posted on 26 September 2013


August boat sales beat the expectations of Wells Fargo analysts who follow the marine industry.

Sales rose 11.8 percent in August, which was a modest increase from senior analyst Timothy Conder’s 10 percent projection.

August results were strong against challenging comparisons between 2012 and 2013, Conder wrote after data were released by Statistical Surveys and reported by Trade Only Today. Year-to-date retail sales were up 4 percent, compared with 13.3 percent a year earlier, following a first-half-of-year increase of 0.8 percent in 2013, compared with a 14.1 percent increase for the same period in 2012.

“Overall, inboard fiberglass boat sales appear to be stabilizing (down 1.4 percent, compared with a decline of 13.5 percent in the first half of 2013) as mid­size boat (31 to 62 feet) sales accelerated to offset the drop in small fiberglass boat sales” between 14 and 30 feet, Conder wrote.

Wells Fargo is reiterating its full-year industry growth projection of 4 to 5 percent.

Click here for the full report.

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Raymond India International Regatta 2013

The fifth edition of the Only International Youth Sailing Regatta of India is due to be held from Sep 30th to Oct 7th 2013. Organised by the Yachting Association of India (YAI) and hosted by Chennai Sailing Academy (CSA) under the aegis of Tamil Nadu Sailing Association (TNSA), the Raymond India International Regatta (RIIR) 2013 is the only event of its kind in the country and keenly anticipated by sailors from India and many other nations. Over a hundred sailors from 9 countries including India have registered for this event which will feature three of the most popular youth classes of boats, the Optimist, 29er and Laser 4.7. Twenty four sailors from Ireland, Seychelles, Malaysia, New Zealand, Britain, The USA, Netherlands and Slovenia will be here forming nearly 25% of the fleet. Malaysia will be the biggest foreign contingent with 9 of their sailors participating in the Optimist and one in the Laser 4.7. The RIIR 2013 will be inaugurated on the 30th of Sep 2013 by Shri G K Vasan, the Honourable Union Cabinet Minister for Shipping, Government of India.

The Optimist is the international single-handed class for juniors up to the age of 15. Ninety percent of the Olympic sailors are said to have started their career in this boat. Laser 4.7 is a hugely popular single-handed youth class which is a stepping stone to the Olympic classes Laser Standard and Radial. The relatively newer Australian skiff 29er that ‘sails faster than the wind that propels it’ is one of the most exciting boats ever designed and it has captured the fascination of the youth worldwide like few other boats have. The interest in this boat has grown exponentially in a very short period and this class has now gained a prominent place in the European circuit and the Asian Championships. It is the intermediate class for sailors who aspire for the Olympic classes 49er, 49FX and 470. It is worth noting that it was TNSA that introduced both the youth classes Laser 4.7 and 29er to India, the former in the Laser Coastal Nationals held here in 2006 and the 29er in the inaugural India International Regatta in 2009.

International Race officials and Jury have been appointed to ensure that the conduct of the event is scrupulously fair and efficient. International Race Officer Ilker Bayindir from Turkey is the Principal Race Officer for the event while International Judge Jagdish Singh from India will chair the jury which will comprise of distinguished International Judges from Singapore and Malaysia and Indian National Judges.

With unusually active SW Monsoon in Chennai this year and the approaching NE Monsoon, the Bay of Bengal is expected to provide the sailors with challenging conditions equal to any international sailing centre. The competition promises to be intense and exciting as all the participating countries have fielded their top sailors who have produced excellent performances in key international events.

In the five years that TNSA and CSA have run this international regatta, their constant endeavour has been to elevate Indian sailing to a new level and bring the best of world talent to India. Besides providing the Indian sailors an opportunity to sail with the best in the world, this event has promoted excellence in the sport of sailing and has also firmly established Chennai as an important sailing destination in the world. It is the organizers’ earnest hope that the Tamil Nadu Government will soon create the proposed marina facility which will further boost sailing activities as well as other water sports in the state besides attracting leisure yachts as well to our shores.

Pleased with the growing international participation, Ashok Thakkar, the Commodore of TNSA says, “It is wonderful to see sailors from nations far and near coming to Chennai to participate in the RIIR. Sailing engenders kinship across communities and helps establish cross cultural exchanges between nations. There is tremendous potential for taking this sport to a greater level in India and in the not too far future we hope to see India as one among the greatest sailing nations. With the kind of support we have received from our sponsors for this event, it is certainly possible.”

Title sponsors Raymond who have extended their support till 2021 are certainly convinced about the sporting and social value of this event. Mrinmoy Mukherjee, Director – Marketing, Raymond Ltd said, “The Raymond India International Regatta is very special for us indeed, the event is becoming a special feature on international sailing calendar. For Raymond this is the third consecutive year of association and our long term association with this event is a testimony to our dedication towards building and growing the emerging sport of sailing in the country and we will continue this endeavor in the coming years. On behalf of our Chairman Managing Director Gautam Hari Singhania, we welcome all national and international participants and wish them good luck for the event.”

Titan has come in as a co-sponsor for the event this year. Bhaskar Bhatt, Managing Director, Titan Company Limited said, “Titan Company in general and brand Fastrack in particular have continually encouraged and inspired young Indians to achieve global standards in all walks of life including sports.  It is in that spirit that Fastrack has associated with this international event.”

LT Construction – the construction arm of Larsen Toubro, which has designed and built many iconic sports infrastructure in the country and abroad, extends its support for the Regatta. S.N. Subrahmanyan, Member of the Board Sr. Executive Vice President (Infrastructure Construction), LT expressed his happiness in the  Company’s association towards this event  and said, “this is an ideal platform for the children in the age group of 8 – 18 years to learn and evolve into  Asian and World Champions. Just like the records set by the Indian Company (LT) in building a world class stadium at Chennai in 260 days, Wankhede (Mumbai) and Kensington Oval (Barbados) stadiums for two Cricket World Cup Finals, I wish that the children from India set new records in international racing competition and bring laurels to the country.”

Adding luster to the RIIR 2013 and inspiring the young sailors to excel will be the presence of Lt Cdr Abhilash Tomy, a naval aviator who created history for India earlier this year by completing a circumnavigation of the earth on a sailboat, solo, nonstop and unassisted. He is the first Indian to have achieved this feat and one among just 80 in the world. He readily accepted our invitation to be the Star Ambassador for the event, saying, It is an absolute honour to be part of the India International Regatta and as a sailor, it is a pleasure for me to be among these young sailors who no doubt will one day make the world respect India as a sailing nation.

The Raymond India International Regatta is supported by the Ministry of Youth Affairs Sports, Govt of India, Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard, Chennai Port Trust and Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu, amongst others.

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