Bajurin still bewildered by Oracle comeback
Four hundred and thirty-eight days after witnessing the biggest comeback in the history of sport, the man who holds the Deed of Gift of the America's Cup has yet to fully come to terms with the magnitude of a truly extraordinary feat.
Like many the world over, Norbert Bajurin, who is commodore of the Golden Gate Yacht Club in San Francisco, the defender of the 35th America's Cup, was at a loss for words after Oracle Team USA came back from a seven-point deficit to retain the Auld Mug, leaving Emirates Team New Zealand stranded on match point.
“I was there day by day and I'm still bewildered,” Bajurin said. “It was amazing and when we crossed the finish line on September 25, 2013, at about 1.45pm, I was just so relieved that it was over, with a moment there of just total falling apart and then regaining my conscious and realising, ‘My God, we have to do this all over again'.
“That was the greatest comeback in sports history. A funny story is they had a book written after about Larry [Ellison, the billionaire software mogul] and myself. It was called The Billionaire and The Mechanic and it went over the history of the America's Cup and Larry's sailing attributes through the last 15 to 20 years, and my involvement with Larry and the yacht club.
“When our team was down 8-1, the odds in Las Vegas were 750-1 and I was just thinking if I would have put $25,000 down the book would be The Billionaire and the Newest Millionaire in California.”
Along with Ellison and Oracle CEO Sir Russell Coutts, who is a five-times America's Cup winner and the most decorated skipper in the history of the King Edward VII Gold Cup in Bermuda — Bajurin shares a vision of bringing sailing and the America's Cup to the masses.
“What we are looking at is a dream that both Larry and Russell Coutts have formed together to bring sailing to the masses out there,” Bajurin said. “It's taking the trophy and the race to other locations.”
That dream became a reality last week when it was announced that Bermuda would host the 35th America's Cup in 2017.
“On Tuesday when they made that announcement in New York, I felt very great about it,” said Bajurin, who visited the Island last week. “My favourite thing about Bermuda, the way I look at it, is that Bermuda doesn't have a team in the race or a horse in the race, as they say. So their only objective is to give a wonderful event for all spectators, fans and teams alike, and I'm really looking forward to the hospitality here, which is just grand.”
Jimmy Spithill and his Oracle team-mates will be in uncharted waters when they lay the oldest trophy in international sport on the line in Bermuda in three years' time. It will be the first time that an American cup-holder has defended the Auld Mug in foreign waters.
“There is always a first time for everything, as they say,” Bajurin said. “We won the Cup in 2010, we had a successful defence and I hope we can do it again.”
Bajurin appreciates that not everyone was happy with Bermuda being awarded sailing's biggest event.
“There was some controversy out there [in San Francisco] about coming to Bermuda,” he said. “They said, ‘Why don't you have it in your home town', but there is nothing in the deed that precludes that.”
The Deed of Gift, last revised in 1985, governs the rules to make a challenge for the Auld Mug, and the rules and conducts of the races.
Bajurin and Ellison have worked together for more than a decade. “Larry and myself got together in 2001 and formed an alliance and have been together ever since,” Bajurin said.
“After three tries — and Larry always says three times is a charm — we won the America's Cup in 2010 and returned it to America for the first time in 15 years.
“It was quite an honour, not only to bring it back to the United States, but also to the city of San Francisco, where we had the most exciting races in the 162 years [of the America's Cup]. It was just wonderful.”