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Alt AC: Is Oracle trying to set up a rival America's Cup?

SAN FRANCISCO – Several times over the past month we mentioned on our Tuesdays with TFE Facebook Live netcast that we were hearing rumors of an Alt AC, as your Ed. calls it – racing in either the AC45 or AC50 catamarans used in the last Cup cycle at one or more venues involving a few teams bent on keeping foiling cats in and on the air.

It will not be lost on many of our Dear Readers that Larry Ellison by now owns a collection of those foiling cats with no circus tent in which to put them, having lost to the Kiwis the last America's Cup and all the promotional power and public interest that goes with it.

Earlier this week, our longtime friend and senior Aussie yachting journalist, author and PR man Rob Mundle penned a piece for his once-in-a-blue-moon blog (that's not the name of it; just how often he posts) saying that Larry and Russell Coutts are about to launch just such a series of regattas, with teams from the USA (Oracle), Japan, France and Sweden, and possibly even Switzerland, meaning Larry's nemesis from the 2010 Cup Ernesto Bertarelli and sponsored by Louis Vuitton.

Today two senior Kiwi journalists discussed the matter – our pal Richard Gladwell, NZL editor of Sail-World.com, and popular TV and radio host Mike Hosking – on New Zealand's Newstalk ZB radio network. Richard, too, was promoting his new book, just out, "The Lone Wolf," that chronicles through the 2017 Cup the trials and tribulations, and ultimate success, of Emirates Team New Zealand. And lest we forget, Mr Mundle was the co-author of Jimmy Spithill's new autobiography, also just out, "Chasing the Cup" (reviewed last month on SI by the Last Post).

You be the judge, but your Ed. thinks the money quotes from of the Gladwell-Hoskings radio interview on New Zealand's NewstalkZB earlier today were, "The problem with this event is that it's not the America's Cup, and everyone is looking to the Cup as the real deal" (Gladwell), and "It's not the America's Cup unless it is the America's Cup; it's just another contest (Hosking). They repeated that mantra at least another couple times each.

So are the Kiwis worried that an Alt AC in cats would impinge on AC36 in New Zealand? Is Louis Vuitton really involved as Rob Mundle reported? Are the logistics, and cost, involved in putting on such a series too much even for someone as clever as Sir Russell Coutts and as rich as Lawrence J. Ellison? Time will tell, but your Ed. is sticking with our original assertion of weeks ago that much more likely is an annual series held here on the reliably windy and iconically beautiful San Francisco Bay, in late September or early October, timed to coincide with, and as a promotion for, Oracle Corp's huge annual conference known as Oracle OpenWorld. For decades that conference has been run by Oracle's esteemed CMO Judith Sim, who also oversaw Larry's AC activation, and who is married to OTUSA's long time and popular Performance Director Ian "Fresh" Burns (AUS/USA).

Could there be other such exhibition regattas put together as a series? Sure, perhaps Chicago where OTUSA and Golden Gate Yacht Club had planned to host AC36 if they won.

(Many of our Dear Readers did not believe SI when we broke that news during the Cup in Bermuda. Did you know that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, former chief of staff for President Obama when they hosted OTUSA at the White House after winning the Cup in 2010, was In Bermuda and ready to sign the host city agreement?)

Perhaps, too, Bermuda where Russell Coutts' longtime vivacious and efficient PA/gatekeeper Alejandra Mato (ESP) continues to reside with her family and many of the aforementioned cats remain. There was even an article speculating on such an event in Bermuda's Royal Gazette last week.

Final day of the ACWS fleet racing in San Francisco Bay in the AC45s in August 2012. The finish line was off the east end of the yacht club jetty thronged with spectators. That's GGYC (yellow building) in the background. Could a similar event be returning to San Francisco Bay to coincide with Oracle OpenWorld in late September/early October each year?

Since the Mundle piece appeared earlier this week, other articles have sprung up on websites across the globe fueling the speculation. Our favorite appeared in today's issue of the Bay Area insiders tech publication The Register with the hilarious headline, "You can yacht be serious: Larry might be planning his own version of America’s Cup." Excerpt:

And getting at Oracle's prowess on the waves certainly seems to be one way competitors try to get up Ellison's nose – Splunk recently chose to tease him about the loss in response to criticism of the analytics biz at the OpenWorld gabfest. "We've been bringing machine data from trains, planes and automobiles into Splunk for years. We can bring in boat data as well. There's a free cloud trial of Splunk that could help you analyze the Oracle yacht data," Splunk CEO Doug Merritt said last month. "We realize it's a bit late for that this year. We're happy to help you try and win the America's Cup back next time you compete."

USA-17, the trimaran that won the 2010 America's Cup for GGYC/OTUSA, is on display outside the Oracle Corp offices in Redwood City, just south of San Francisco International Airport.