USA fans finally turn up for America's Cup
DUNCAN JOHNSTONE IN SAN FRANCISCO
Better late than never - America's fair-weathered fans have turned up in the droves for the deciding race of the America's Cup.
Painfully indifferent to the regatta for most of this event, particularly during the Louis Vuitton final and then when Team New Zealand took a seeming insurmountable 8-1 lead against Oracle in the match, the defenders' turnaround got the turnstiles turning.
There were queues of fans waiting for the official village to open this morning. Stars and Stripes flags outnumber the dwindling Kiwi contingent, most of who were forced home as this painfully long final played out way beyond anyone's expectations.
All the major news networks turned up too.
They had ignored the fact that the cup could have been won by Team New Zealand over the previous days.
But with Oracle on a roll and the cup going to be handed over one way or the other, the mainstream media sprung into action to cover the final act of a story they had largely ignored.
To their credit, the local San Francisco Chronicle has been onboard since the outset.
They have covered the event with a fair dose of realism and that was reflected in their line today: "Just when you thought it was safe to leave the water, the America's Cup has blossomed into a fantastic affair," they marvelled.
That was in stark contrast to their line a couple of months ago when they cast some brutal honesty on the Louis Vuitton Cup where just two and half challengers were involved: "Perhaps the worst nautical launch since the Titanic set off across the North Atlantic."
But it only took a few wins for the punter's interest to prick. Seven in a row to be precise as Oracle's incredible comeback took the final all the way to a decider.
Their charge proved irresistible to their billionaire backer Larry Ellison.
He has around 60,000 of his Oracle faithful in the city for his One World conference. He missed his keynote address yesterday to watch his America's Cup team claim another two wins off Team New Zealand and he wasn't going to be anywhere else today.
Some of the tech-heads were struggling to get their heads around Ellison.
"I can understand his dedication to the racing, but it does send an interesting message to the audience here about his priorities," Mason McDaniel, whose company spent a few thousand dollars in travel expenses to send him from Washington to the conference, told Reuters.
In a sport dominated by the rich, Ellison has succeeded in taking yachting off the sports pages and placing it in the major business journals in the United States.
The Silicon Valley Business Journal noted: "Oracle shareholders and business partners this week were again forced to accept a fact of life for those who have connected their fate to Ellison's: When his passion is directed at the company, he can make it go. When his passion points elsewhere, he goes away."
If Oracle deliver the final blow, Ellison will surely take the Auld Mug centre stage in the conference's main auditorium. Even the nerds might forgive him his moment of sporting glory.
- © Fairfax NZ News