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Press Conference Transcript Oct. 24

Larry Ellison, Ken Read, Brad Butterworth, and Alan Smith take questions

October 24, 2002
Bob Grieser/louis Vuitton Cup

The following is a transcript of Thursday evening’s press conference.

**Q – Brad, your start didn’t look very good but it gave you the position to be able to go to the right of the course. Were you pleased with your start? **

Brad — Yes, I think we got the best start we could in the circumstances. We wanted to be on the left hand side of OneWorld but they did a good job in the pre-start and held us out. Our second best option was to be down that end, close to them, and tack away. Fortunately there was a little bit of a left shift at the time and we managed to head off on a good heading and we tacked on a nice shift and managed to sneak across them. That was really a big part of the race.

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**Q — You didn’t control much on the first downwind leg. Were you scared to lose your lead? **

Brad — We’re always scared to lose a lead. It was a tight race. I think it was very similar to the one we raced in the first round robin. They were going pretty well, there wasn’t a hell of a lot in it either way. You have to sail well and if you get a little bit ahead it’s hard to pass. They made it very hard to pass in the first round robin. They sailed well all the way round and it was a tough race, and very enjoyable. They’re the sort of races we need.

**Q — Alan, were you impressed to have Craig McCaw today? **

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Alan — It was the first time he’d been there, and everyone was happy to see him there. It was good to have the boss in town, and he’s certainly an asset to the team.

**Q — Was the atmosphere different with him on board as 17th man? **

Alan — I don’t think so. It doesn’t matter who comes out, we look after them the same.

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**Q — Ken, two races, two losses. You must be disappointed. **

Ken — I think disappointed is the right word. We are struggling a bit right now. We thought we’d sped the boat up a little bit between rounds but the results clearly don’t show it. So we’re looking at every single aspect of how we’re sailing the boat and we’re trying to do a little bit better. That’s all we can ask for, from the entire team.

**Q — We hear you are protesting about lack of wind yesterday? **

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Ken — To be honest, I’m the sailing team part of it and we do a good job of separating church and state so I am not too sure¿.I believe we were questioning it as the gun went off yesterday and looked into it. I’m not sure how far it’s come along today.

**Q — But you can comment on the penalty yesterday? **

Ken — We thought we were in the three boat length zone, our competitor didn’t — the judges agreed with our competitor. It’s that simple. It ended up to be the race decider right there. Sometimes they go your way, sometimes they don’t.

**Q — Larry, you had a good race today. Congratulations. The obvious question is why did you ask Chris to come and sail your boat today? **

Larry Ellison — We had a good start in Round 1 and a rough finish. Before today we had five races and only managed one victory in those five races, and I thought it was important for us, if we wanted to have a chance to improve the team, to make some changes.

**Q — Are you considering other major changes? **

Larry Ellison — I don’t think so. But we did make a big change. Chris helmed the boat today and is the new skipper.

**Q — Your boat looks faster. Are you pleased with the speed of your boat? **

Larry Ellison — I think we have great boat speed. We can always make the boat faster. We’ve tried some new things. We think it’s a bit faster in the second round. Other people made improvements and that’s what we’d expect. But we thought we had to make some other fundamental changes, and we did.

**Q — Larry, did you make the decision yourself to bring Chris Dickson in? Or was there any influence from the far office? **

Larry Ellison — I didn’t talk to Bruce or Russell or anyone else in the far office. I was the person who made the decision.

**Q — Since Peter Holmberg has been one of the best starters, who has saved you in at least three races, why have you axed him? **

Larry Ellison — We changed skippers. Peter has been doing a brilliant job starting the boat. He’s a world match racing champion. We discussed it¿we were getting great starts and we were losing. If they would give us the victory for the great start¿but that’s not how the boat racing works.

**Q — Is Chris now the head of the sailing program as well? **

Larry Ellison — Chris is now responsible for picking what sailors are out on the water every day.

**Q — Can we ask why was he sidelined when he was? And the reasons he was sidelined, will they not now interfere? I’m talking about the personality clashes. Can you overcome that? **

Larry Ellison — I sailed with Chris for years and years and I’ve never had a personality clash with Chris.

**Q — He might get on with you Larry, but with the rest of the crew there could be some difficulties. **

Larry Ellison – You can only have one leader out on the water. We picked one leader and I support that one leader right up to the very moment we make a change. When the 49ers traded Joe Montana and brought in Steve Young there was a lot of controversy. But when Joe was playing everyone on the team fully supported Joe as the quarterback. When Steve Young came in and took over the team everyone supported Steve Young. That’s the way professional sports work.

**Q — And does Peter Holmberg stay in your team? **

Larry — Absolutely. Peter’s a fantastic weapon. As you pointed out, he’s a brilliant starter. He’s a very very talented helmsman and we want to keep all the weapons ready.

**Q — Mr Ellison, when we came to your camp for a briefing by you, you impressed us that you were very keen on teamwork. Do you believe that you’ve engendered teamwork by introducing as your helmsman a man who is so evidently unpopular with the rest of the team? **

Larry Ellison — Evidently unpopular to who? I don’t accept your statement that he’s evidently unpopular. There was very broad support for Chris. Not 100% of the people¿..In professional sports teams you often have two quarterbacks..and these controversies are common in professional sports. Someone says this guy should really be playing, another group of sports writers says this guy should be playing. There’s a lot of controversy. The people on the team similarly have opinions as to who the best guy is. The fact is we raced five times, had four losses, and we beat Victory Challenge because they broke a halyard. They went around the course with one sail. We weren’t getting the results. When you’re a professional sports team and you don’t get the results you have to make changes. That’s what we did.

**Q — I would like to ask again if you consider that introducing someone so highly volatile is good in team building? **

Larry Ellison — I’ve sailed with a lot of very talented people and I think that Chris Dickson is an enormously talented sailor. I think he is valuable not only on the helm but also his tactical input is absolutely crucial, his engineering input is absolutely crucial. He is a fantastic asset. We’re thrilled to have him running the sailing program. We think he’s a tremendously talented helmsman on the water.

**Q — Larry Ellison, if Chris doesn’t get the results that you’re looking for, what will you do? **

Larry Ellison — I guess we’ll lose. There’s no mystery in this. First of all, I can’t make constant changes on the team. I get to make one fundamental change. If you’re running a professional sports team — last time I checked this looked like professional sports to me – you can’t go from Joe Montana to Steve Young, to Joe Montana to Steve Young, back and forth, back and forth. We went through nine races, assessed our results and decided to make a change. We’re not going to have multiple skippers. It’s Chris’s to win or lose through the end of this regatta.

**Q — Mr Ellison, can you go deeper in the comparison you made in the press release between your team’s situation and Prada’s? **

Larry Ellison — I don’t know why we mentioned the Prada situation at all. I didn’t see the press release, it was explained to me. It’s none of our business to comment about Prada and their personnel. I don’t know who wrote that press release but I’d like to apologise to the Prada team. That’s an embarrassment. I deeply regret us commenting or meddling on what goes on in their team. Last time I checked it was their boat that finished in front of us yesterday.

**Q — Did you speak with Paul Cayard in the past 24-hours? Is he on standby mode now? **

Larry Ellison — I picked Chris Dickson as the skipper. I don’t know a more talented sailor in the world than Chris Dickson.

**Q — On board the boat — did you go to Chris because he was the option or are there specific qualities that he brings? **

Larry Ellison — Having sailed with him, the most unusual thing about Chris is that he has a lot of input about what’s going on in the boat. He’s driving the boat, he has a lot of tactical input, he has a lot of input on how the sails are trimmed. There is a lot of communication, a lot of idea exchange. Some people consider that difficult. I think overall that we’ve got to improve our game. We have not been getting good results. We need that kind of input, those fresh eyes, a critical review of what we’re doing, to try to make improvements. Because if we don’t make improvements we’re going to go home and watch the Louis Vuitton Cup final on television. Even if we do make improvements we’re going to have a hard time getting there.

**Q — Brad and Alan, it was a very important race today for you two, for the first place obviously. How did you feel this morning? What made the difference? Was it tactics, boat speed? You’re pretty even teams. **

Brad — It was the second time we raced OneWorld. There wasn’t much difference other than we won. The race was very similar. The boats are evenly matched. It was a tough race. There’s a lot of tough races out there, but that one especially is tough. It was satisfying to win, that’s for sure, and we were happy to take a point out of it.

Alan — I don’t think we felt any different going out today. Every race is tough. Take a day like yesterday where there were 60-70 degree wind shifts, I think that’s probably more stressful than racing Alinghi. We just went out there, they had the best of the start and did a nice job defending. I think we’re going to see a lot more close boat races.

**Q — Ken, you have a narrow boat out there, which potentially is good in light stuff. Where’s it going wrong? **

Ken — Good question. I don’t believe that it’s our boat speed that’s been the problem the last couple of days. We had a half a leg lead in the first race that was cancelled yesterday morning. In the second race against the British team we were ahead by a minute at the first weather mark. We had probably our best leg on that first beat and our worst leg on that first run that we’ve had in the regatta. I think our consistency just isn’t there right now. Everyone refers to our team as a veteran team, I think that’s working for us. There’s clearly no panic in the compound. Our biggest fan is Dennis and ??. We just have to work through it, that’s all. You work for your breaks. We’re not really getting any breaks right now and we probably don’t quite deserve them yet. We just have to keep doing what we know how to do and hopefully our luck turns around a little bit.

**Q — Two questions. First, Brad, Alan and Ken. If someone had woken you up in the middle of last night and said the next time you’re racing Oracle, you can have Chris Dickson as skipper or you can have the current skipper, what would you have given as your reply before going back to sleep? **

Ken — What did you wake me up to tell me that? Every team out here has great sailors. There’s probably half a dozen people on each team who could do any number of jobs on the afterguard. This isn’t the first time it’s going to happen and other teams have been shifting people around already. This isn’t a big shock to our team. People want to win and they go about it the best way they know how.

**Q — Mr Ellison, with your reputation and what you’ve achieved, I would be pretty nervous driving your car. It must have been tough on your boat yesterday – whoever was controlling the onboard camera was following you round the back of the boat and it didn’t look that comfortable for you. Did you consider that perhaps the intimidation that you may prevail on the skipper maybe affected the performance? Did you think ‘perhaps I’ll get off and see if it works? **

Larry Ellison — I have been off the boat. I wasn’t on against OneWorld or Victory Challenge. But this is a high pressure sport. I don’t think I’m the one putting pressure on our helmsman. I think the guys putting pressure on are the guys to my right. They’re the ones who put pressure on, not me.

**Q — Mr Ellison, you said the boat started well, but the problem was winning races on the finish line. Your solution has been to address the helming of the boat, the skippering of the boat. Are there questions about the general tactical input on the boat? **

Larry — I think that’s really the issue. The issue was communication among the afterguard. We’re really trying to improve communication on the boat. That’s the change I made, to get Chris’s input about everything. Peter did a brilliant job helming the boat for the most part. You can’t explain any of our losses through bad starting of the boat, bad helming of the boat. It had nothing to do with that at all. I think we just had to improve the communication on the sailing team. This change was really designed to improve communication on the sailing team. And to get a fresh set of eyes, have a look at what we’re doing, the way we’re turning the sails… We do some things differently from the other teams — maybe we shouldn’t. We shouldn’t do everything the same but we’re taking a look at everything we’re doing. In terms of Peter’s driving the boat, it was excellent. That was not the issue.

**Q — Mr Ellison, clearly you had a victory today. Did you feel that communication was working better? Were you pleased with what you’ve seen so far? **

Larry Ellison — Yes, communication was much better today. The key thing was I wasn’t the only one who thought so.

**Q — Mr Ellison, Peter has done a great job starting the boat, why not leave him doing that and have Chris take over as Francesco does with Rod Davis on Prada? **

Larry Ellison — I think that’s a perfectly legitimate question and we may in fact do that. Today Chris decided to drive the boat, and that’s his call. But certainly I expect you’ll see times where Peter is driving the boat and Chris is tactician. That may very well happen. That is not my call, it’s Chris Dickson’s call. But our intention is to use all the talent we have in a very deep sailing team. OneWorld has a set up right now where the tactician is the skipper, not the driver, and that’s working exceedingly well. There are a bunch of things that we can try. We won’t have exactly the same sailing group on every race that we had out today.

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