America's Cup back in American hands
VALENCIA, Spain — Still bundled against the cold in his white foul-weather gear, software tycoon Larry Ellison hoisted the America's Cup high in the air, then planted a kiss on the oldest trophy in international sports.
"Valencia — muchas gracias!" the self-made billionaire screamed, following the ride of his life across the Mediterranean on one of the most remarkable boats ever built.
The America's Cup is back in American hands.
It was swept away from Europe by Ellison's space-age trimaran, which has a gigantic wing for a sail and easily sped ahead of two-time defending champion Alinghi of Switzerland to complete a two-race sweep in the 33rd America's Cup yesterday.
"I am so proud of this team, I am so proud to be part of this team, and I am especially proud to bring the America's Cup, once again, after a long absence, back to the United States of America," said the 65-year-old Ellison, the CEO of Oracle Corp.
Ellison's victory over wealthy rival Ernesto Bertarelli sends the Auld Mug — the ornate silver jug trophy — to San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club.
The two billionaires have been locked in a tumultuous legal fight for 2 1/2 years, and it looked for a while like the result of this race was going to be contested off the water.
Alinghi raised a red protest flag on its giant catamaran late on the first leg of the triangle course, leaving everyone wondering what it was about since there's no communications off the boats.
The Swiss dropped the protest after the race, confirming Ellison's win.
The America's Cup has been away from U.S. shores for 15 years, the longest drought since America won the silver trophy by beating a fleet of British ships around the Isle of Wight in 1851.
Dennis Conner lost it in 1995 to Team New Zealand and Russell Coutts, a three-time America's Cup winner who is CEO of BMW Oracle Racing.
Besides Ellison, tactician John Kostecki of Reno, Nev., was the only other American on BMW Oracle's crew. It was steered by skipper Jimmy Spithill of Australia.
Still, the true star was Ellison's monster trimaran and its radical 223-foot wing sail, which powered the craft at three times the speed of the wind.