Visiting Dignitaries

Shiver Me Timbers! Could Larry Ellison’s Sailing Team Be Gaining an Edge Through Espionage?

Say it ain't so, Captain.
Come on, that's practically a pirate flag!  (Photo: flickr.com/portofsandiego)

Come on, that’s practically a pirate flag! (Photo: flickr.com/portofsandiego)

When last we heard from maritime enthusiast Larry Ellison, the Oracle founder had just bought himself the Hawaiian island of Lanai. Now the San Jose Mercury News reports that his sailing franchise, Oracle Racing, is accused of attempting to gain an edge by espionage.

Mr. Ellison took home the America’s Cup back in 2010, which means he basically owns the franchise. If another team nabs the trophy next year, into the drink goes his attempt to turn it into a television event. But even if there wasn’t money at stake, we get the sense Mr. Ellison doesn’t like to lose.

Now, the team from Italy claims that Oracle Team USA! USA! USA! “sent a spy in an inflatable boat to take pictures of its 72-foot catamaran during training runs last month on the Hauraki Gulf in New Zealand.” That’s verboten: As per the competition’s rules, you’re supposed to stay 200 meters away. (Wait a second, we thought this was the America’s Cup. Why are they using the metric system?!)

However, it seems that sailing is a more exciting sport than one might assume, and cloak-and-dagger maneuvering is actually all just part of the competitive process. The Mercury News says:

“It’s part of the nature of this competition,” said Dyer Jones, an America’s Cup historian and CEO of the America’s Cup Hall of Fame. “You get in the other guy’s head.”

Or, as even the spokesperson for the America’s Cup Event Authority put it: “All is fair in love and war. That is what it boils down to.”

A sport practically built on covert ops? We’re shocked such a thing would appeal to a disruptive billionaire!

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com

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