Software tycoon and sailor Larry Ellison on Tuesday questioned the safety of a Persian Gulf port picked as the site for the America's Cup showdown between his American-based crew and defending champion Alinghi of Switzerland.
Ellison, the Oracle Corp. founder and CEO who owns BMW Oracle Racing, said he's never been to Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates, which was named last week by Alinghi as the port for the best-of-3 showdown starting Feb. 8 for the oldest trophy in international sports.
"I don't exactly know what to say," Ellison said during the official presentation of his crew and the giant trimaran it will sail. "I think they picked it because it's very light winds. I'm a little bit concerned because it's less than 100 miles from Iran, so we're all concerned about the safety of our crew and our shore crew and everyone setting set up there."
Ras al-Khaimah, or RAK, is on the southern end of the Persian Gulf and not far from the Strait of Hormuz, which separates the peninsula from Iran.
"People say, 'Oh my God, the Emirates, that's where Roger Federer trains for tennis and that's where Formula One races,' " said Ellison, who will sail aboard the 90-foot trimaran. "Not this part of the Emirates. There's an oil depot, we're concerned about electricity, we're concerned about a lot of things. We're concerned about the proximity to Iran.
"I know a lot of people in the UAE. We like them a lot. Oracle does do a lot of business with the UAE. Nothing bad to say about the UAE at all, but we are concerned about the suitability of this particular venue for a race like this."
Ellison, addressed the America’s Cup racing team Tuesday near San Diego’s convention center thanking them for their dedication.
“Why do we do things like this?” asked Ellison. “There aren’t fortunes that will be made, there aren’t empires to be built, but there are things we will learn about ourselves. Can we build the fastest sail boat that will ever be built?”
“If we’ve done our job well we can go out and race this boat and bring home the America’s Cup,” he said.
BMW Oracle Racing is backed by San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club. It has been testing its space age-looking trimaran in San Diego since last fall.
Also Tuesday, BMW Oracle Racing named Australian Jimmy Spithill as helmsman for its showdown with Alinghi.
Spithill will be sailing in his fourth America's Cup.
The 30-year-old Spithill sailed with Young Australia in 1999-2000, when he was the youngest skipper in America's Cup history. He also sailed for American syndicate OneWorld in 2002-2003 and Italy's Luna Rossa in 2007.
Russell Coutts, one of the most dominant skippers in America's Cup history, is BMW Oracle Racing's skipper and CEO. But Coutts said he's not sure how often he'll sail aboard BMW Oracle Racing's trimaran during the series.
Introduced to the Indiana Jones theme music, actor Harrison Ford spoke to the team and admitted he was no expert sailor.
"I don’t know much about the America’s Cup. I don’t know much about sailing. I’m here for the ride,” said Harrison Ford talking about how he was looking forward to a ride later in the day on what he called "The Beast."
There was no naming of the boat and no christening but champagne was shared by all as they toasted the history and tradition of the historic trophy.
The team will stay in San Diego until mid-September while they make some modifications to the boat.