In a move that will likely confuse his own Oracle Racing Team as well as any of his opponents, billionaire Larry Ellison has demoted Paul Cayard from Sailing Manager of his team, which is one of the three United States groups challenging for the Americas Cup. This move is the latest in the twists that Ellison has provided to the management of his $80-million challenge for the longest continuously competed trophy in sport. Cayard curiously remains on the Oracle Racing payroll, but will not accompany the team to Auckland for this winters trials.
Earlier this year, Ellison saw fit to depose his skipper, Chris Dickson, but that was seen as a popular move among the rest of the crew. Dickson was accused of being an irritating skipper by other members of the crew, and Cayard, whose experience in the Americas Cup is second only to that of Dennis Conner, while not being appointed to the post, was in the skippers position by default, as a result of his being the Sailing Manager.
The latest move, revealed exclusively to this writer from an inside source in Auckland, may be seen as one of identity crisis. Ellison likes to sail on his boats, and was aboard his 80-foot Sayonara in the storm wracked Sydney-Hobart Race of 1998 and was marked by the experience, saying that he would not race offshore again. He is subsequently believed to have found the position of spending money to promote the fame of another totally intolerable.
Cayard has been involved in the Americas Cup since 1980, when he sailed with the late Tom Blackaller and rose to prominence as tactician for that skipper in Fremantle in 1986/7. He was employed as skipper by Raul Gardini for his estimated $100 million challenge in 1992 with Il Moro di Venezia, when he won the challenger series and was defeated by Bill Kochs America3.
Three years later, Cayards talent was recognized by Conner who persuaded him to steer his Stars & Stripes, which against the odds won the defender trials, but was defeated by the all-conquering Black Magic from New Zealand. Last year, a cash-strapped Cayard narrowly lost the challenger selections in New Zealand to the Italian Prada with his own AmericaOne.
When it proved impossible to match the firepower of the billionaires–Ellison and Craig McCaw with the One World Challenge–Cayard sold the assets of AmericaOne to Ellison and joined the team. John Cutler takes over as Sailing Manager and it seems ever more likely that Peter Holmberg, who sailed with Conner last time round, will be the helmsman of the Oracle Racing challenger. Holmberg recently won the Colorcraft Bermuda Gold Cup with Cayard sailing as tactician/bowman. Cayard knew of his fate at the time, but none of the rest of the crew was aware that he was soon to take a sidelined position.