Larry Ellison’s Insane Plan

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Här är en bra artikel från Wired, ett av mina favoritmagasin utanför seglingen, som har tittat närmare på hur Americas’s Cup skall göra sig bra på TV: Inside Larry Ellison’s Insane Plan to Turn America’s Cup Into a TV Spectacle.

Ellison’s grand plan, which has always been to democratize his sport, has so far handed him some big defeats. The first was at the hands of San Francisco’s city government, the second at the hands of NBC. But with LiveLine, Ellison may have gotten even more than he hoped for. He ordered up a software package of crowd-pleasing bells and whistles. Honey gave him an operating system for an entire sport. For all the chaos that ensued in Venice, LiveLine was a success: The boats may have crashed, but the system didn’t.

Huge pileups are a Nascar tradition, but they’ve never been part of sail racing before. Neither has a checkered flag. Traditionalists may complain, but these may be good for the America’s Cup. Team Oracle’s star skipper, Jimmy Spithill, recognizes the potential. “A lot of my mates are professional rugby players and race car drivers; they know what I do, but before LiveLine none of them could get through a race,” he says. “They would just yawn and turn off the TV. Now they love it, because they can understand it.” There’s evidence that the general public will agree: The following race, in Newport, Rhode Island, earned a 0.9 Nielsen rating—beating out the same weekend’s Tour de France coverage.

But for sailing to make it as a true spectator sport, Ellison must appeal to both a broad audience and the old hands at the yacht club. Multiboat pileups make for lousy racing but pretty good TV—and that is the bind that Ellison finds himself in today. He can dial up the carnage with crazy course designs worthy of pachinko. Or he can go classy and trust that yacht racing, newly comprehensible, will find a mass audience on its own.

No one, not even Stan Honey, knows where Ellison is going to take the America’s Cup World Series when it gets to San Francisco. But Honey does know one thing for sure. “Our shit is on schedule and on budget,” he says, to the sound of walnuts cracking between his frontal lobes, “and it works.” If the new America’s Cup does not find its way, it won’t be the fault of the navigator.

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