A billionaire’s bid to make sailing the new NASCAR

A billionaire’s bid to make sailing the new NASCAR
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History is a terrible burden to shed; we obsessively dwell on the past. To forgive and forget is a task beseeched by only the highest authority — namely Oracle’s Larry Ellison.

By every account, the 2010 America’s Cup was a mockery of more than 160 years of sailing grace, tradition, and sportsmanship. Sailing enthusiasts and casual fans alike were turned off by the acrimonious, drawn-out episode of this illustrious sporting saga.

Because Larry Ellison and his team were awarded the 2010 America’s Cup — on the water by way of various courtrooms — his Oracle Team USA, as the Cup defender, determines the timing, location, and rules for the next America’s Cup. With that mandate, Ellison is pressing the restart button on the oldest continuous competition in the world by making the 2013 America’s Cup as fan-friendly and exciting as sailing could ever be imagined.

His approach is simple: By spending no small fortune, the boats will be lighter, faster, and stronger than ever before. Sailing upwards of 40 knots (~74km/hour), these boats will exact the same excitement as a NASCAR race: continuous possibilities for spectacular crashes.

Just as auto manufacturers like Cadillac are using advanced materials to create vehicles that are lighter and stronger, increasing acceleration and fuel efficiency, Oracle Racing designed and built their boats to be as light as possible. Enter Carbon.

Made of almost completely carbon fiber (with some Kevlar and titanium added for good measure), the boats are equipped with a massive wing in place of a sail. Like airplanes, the physics of sailing are all about foils and lift. Taking a page out of Boeing’s book, Ellison’s Oracle Team USA designed a wing larger than that of a 747 to power the boat.

For the 2013 America’s Cup, all the teams will sail the new AC72 model boats. These were specifically designed for the regatta, allowing each team to make minor design changes within specified guidelines.

According to Ian Burns, Oracle Racing’s team coordinator, the enormous wing and the light carbon structure make for such a large power-to-weight ratio that, with efficient enough foils, the boats will hydrofoil across the water. This power, however, will test the best sailors in the world to simply keep the boats under control.

Just last week in San Francisco Bay, Oracle Team USA pitchpoled during a routine practice run. Here is the video:

Ellison is attempting to rescue the America’s Cup out of Davey Jones’s Locker and into the mainstream sports arena. Through significant investment in the development of these supercharged machines and a revolutionary TV viewing experience, he is redeeming the 2010 America’s Cup spectacle.

We shall anxiously wait for the official beginning of the America’s Cup in July of 2013, when teams mostly funded by the global elite race against each other and the elements of San Francisco Bay.

This article is written on behalf of Cadillac and not by the Quartz editorial staff.