The Billionaire and the Mechanic: How Larry Ellison and a Car Mechanic Teamed Up to Win Sailing's Greatest Race, The America's Cup

The Billionaire and the Mechanic: How Larry Ellison and a Car Mechanic Teamed Up to Win Sailing's Greatest Race, The America's Cup

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by Julian Guthrie
     
 

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A Forbes Best Book of the Year

The America’s Cup, first awarded in 1851, is the oldest trophy in international sports, and one of the most hotly contested. In 2000, Larry Ellison, co-founder and billionaire CEO of Oracle Corporation, decided to run for the coveted prize and found an unlikely partner in Norbert Bajurin, a car radiator mechanic

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Overview


A Forbes Best Book of the Year

The America’s Cup, first awarded in 1851, is the oldest trophy in international sports, and one of the most hotly contested. In 2000, Larry Ellison, co-founder and billionaire CEO of Oracle Corporation, decided to run for the coveted prize and found an unlikely partner in Norbert Bajurin, a car radiator mechanic who had recently been named Commodore of the blue collar Golden Gate Yacht Club.

Julian Guthrie’s The Billionaire and the Mechanic tells the incredible story of the partnership between Larry and Norbert, their unsuccessful runs for the Cup in 2003 and 2007, and their victory in 2010. With unparalleled access to Ellison and his team, Guthrie takes readers inside the design and building process of these astonishing boats, and the management of the passionate athletes who race them. She traces the bitter rivalries between Oracle and their competitors, including Swiss billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli’s Team Alinghi, and throws readers into exhilarating races from Australia and New Zealand to Valencia, Spain.

The Billionaire and the Mechanic is a must-read for anyone interested in the race or this remarkable story.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A rich man’s vanity is lionized in this hagiographic yacht-racing saga. Journalist Guthrie (The Grace of Everyday Saints) recounts Oracle founder Larry Ellison’s quest to win the America’s cup, an effort that climaxed in a 2010 victory with a high-tech, million, rigid-sailed trimaran so fast that it left the competition in the spray. When the author sticks to boats and races her account is absorbing—there’s drama in these powerful, fragile vessels and among the even more highly-strung New Zealanders who crew them for other nations’ teams. Unfortunately, Guthrie’s focus is too often on Ellison and his swanky digs, Zen posturings—“He listened to the wind rustling the bamboo... for a welcome moment, he felt safe”—and vacuous drive to win, which egotistical navel-gazing she mistakes for philosophy. The eponymous “mechanic” is Norbert Bajurin, an auto-repair-shop owner who helmed San Francisco’s downscale Golden Gate Yacht Club, which Ellison essentially hired to front his Cup bids; absurdly, Guthrie styles Bajurin, whose only role is to applaud from the sidelines, as the billionaire’s working-class soul mate. Guthrie’s incessant fawning over a plutocrat’s pretensions steal the wind from the narrative’s sails. Agent: Joe Veltre, Gersh Agency. (July)
From the Publisher

“[An] excellent book … The story of Mr. Ellison’s decade-long effort to win the Cup and bring it back to the U.S. under Golden Gate’s flag is worth telling, and Julian Guthrie, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, tells it well.”—Wall Street Journal

“Splendid … Guthrie crisply sketches the complex process that was required for Ellison to establish his own position in the top ranks of yachting and organize the winning team in 2010. A thriller of a tale and a worthy scene-setter for this summer’s trophy defense in San Francisco Bay.”—Kirkus Reviews

The Billionaire and the Mechanic opens with a thrilling scene as old as Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ and as iconic as ones from Conrad, Melville, Hemingway and Sebastian Junger: a man battling a dangerously stormy sea. That the sailor, Larry Ellison, is one of our contemporary captains of industry, the swashbuckling billionaire of the title … only heightens the drama. … [The Billionaire and the Mechanic] succeeds as a lively primer, history, and up-to-date soap opera, full of local color, leading up to the America’s Cup races in San Francisco Bay.”—San Francisco Chronicle

"Julian Guthrie's riveting book takes readers deep into uncharted realms, from the extremes of the ocean to the sublime connection between two singular men. The Billionaire and The Mechanic is a wondrously detailed story, beautifully told, by a writer who understands both the intricacies of human nature and the immensity of the natural world."—Susan Casey, author of The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean

“Surely the most comprehensive book ever written about an America's Cup challenge, The Billionaire and The Mechanic will surely be must reading for any yacht-racing aficionado."—Frank Deford

“From the opening scene in this book—and scene is the appropriate word for its cinematic beginning—the reader is swept along on heart-thumping rides on swift, dueling sailboats, past an assemblage of characters worthy of Dreiser, past the shoals of deceit worthy of Dickens, and coming to rest on the formidable character of billionaire Larry Ellison, who has the will-to-win of his best friend, Steve Jobs, and of a mechanic, who made winning possible. Julian Guthrie writes as if with a magic wand, holding the reader spellbound.”—Ken Auletta

"[A] product of first-rate reporting. . . . A riveting account."—Sailing

"Energetically written .... sure to spark interest among racing fans."—Booklist

"This is one helluva great read. Larry and Norbert - beautiful dreamers both, men with faith in their ability to convert them to reality. This book is fascinating; it informs, educates and entertains about the longest continuously contested trophy in all of sports. This is a must read for lovers of sport, and particularly for sailors.”—Bob Fisher, author of An Absorbing Interest: The America's Cup—A History 1851-2003

"Larry Ellison's America's Cup victory was as improbable as it was inevitable. The same is true of his alliance with radiator repairman Norbert Bajurin. In this absorbing page-turner, Julian Guthrie tells us how they came together to make history."—G. Bruce Knecht, author of The Proving Ground: The Inside Story of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race

The Billionaire and the Mechanic is pumping with adrenaline and yet full of subtle, surprising details about both sailing and one of the most mysterious, controversial characters on earth. This book is tirelessly reported and Guthrie has a rare writing gift to tie it all together into a work of literary journalism that reads like a thriller.”—Jaimal Yogis, author of The Fear Project

"If you're interested in the America's Cup competition, or in sailboat racing generally, you'll love this book. Julian Guthrie's taut and fascinating behind-the-scenes account of the colorful personalities, the risky development of astonishing new boats, and the hair-raising racing tactics of Larry Ellison's long campaign to win the trophy is necessary background reading."—Derek Lundy, author of Godforsaken Sea: A True Story of Racing the World's Most Dangerous Waters

"A gripping tale of world-class competition and strategic gamesmanship. . . . It will have enduring value as a great story in its own right."—Sail World

"Entertaining."—Soundings

“An up-close tour of how the world’s fifth-richest man spent hundreds of millions of dollars, and hired and fired the best sailors on Earth, to win.”—Forbes

Kirkus Reviews
How billionaire Larry Ellison and his Oracle team succeeded in returning the America's Cup, the premier prize in global yachting, to the United States. Victory came in 2010 when USA-17, Ellison's state-of-the-art, carbon-fiber composite boat regained the cup after failures in 2003 and 2007. San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Guthrie's (The Grace of Everyday Saints: How a Band of Believers Lost Their Church and Found Their Faith, 2011) splendid elaboration of the victory also encompasses the history of the race and the competitors and their boats from its beginnings in the mid-19th century. She marks off clearly which parts of the team's success were due to luck, which to money, and which to skill and superior technology, and she ably captures the parallel competition between men and their boats and the power of nature working through ocean and weather. Guthrie presents the successive challenges Ellison had to overcome as he developed the skills, the team and the technology that could tame the waves and human competition. Part of her story involves the organization of a kind of insurrection in the elite world of yacht clubs. Working with radiator mechanic Norbert Bajurin, commodore of San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club, Ellison took on both privilege and inherited wealth, as represented by Ernesto Bertarelli and his Swiss Team Alinghi, which had won in 2007. Their 2010 rematch brought together some of the same leading competitors from Ellison's first attempt in New Zealand in 2003. Guthrie crisply sketches the complex process that was required for Ellison to establish his own position in the top ranks of yachting and organize the winning team in 2010. A thriller of a tale and a worthy scene-setter for this summer's trophy defense in San Francisco Bay.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802121356
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
05/21/2013
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Julian Guthrie is an award-winning journalist and staff writer at the San Francisco Chronicle. She is the author of The Grace of Everyday Saints.

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