Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Sense of Proportion

It is reported that Larry Ellison and the BMW Oracle campaign has spent a lot of money - $250 million by some estimates - on this year’s America’s Cup three race regatta. We are so used to hearing large numbers that we don’t really put them in terms relative to our own spending. I fully realize than an egotistical billionaire wouldn’t think of spending his sailing money in the ways we ordinary Plebian sailors do, but just imagine if he did. I know it’s a silly, kind of an apples and oranges thing, but I tried to figure out what the money spent could mean in terms of the boats and activities of some my favorite bloggers.
  • 45,620 new race-rigged Lasers
  • A new laser for each sailor in 537 fleets the size of the very large Newport Frostbite fleet (85)
  • A new laser for each sailor in 2281 fleets the size of the one at my yacht club
  • 65,274 new Sunfish
  • 31,486 new 420’s or FJ’s
  • 13,736 new Flying Scots (about twice the number ever built in 50 years)
  • 2631 new Catalina 309’s
  • $523,102 for each high school and college program in the US
  • 66 new boats for each US high school and college with a sailing program
  • $43,165 per year in perpetuity for each high school and college sailing program if invested in an endowment yielding 5% a year
  • Or 5.4 new boats per year for each high school and college sailing program – forever
(Boat costs are taken from the manufacturers’ retail price on their website, the Catalina price from a Cruising World review, and the number of college and high school sailing teams from their respective national organization websites.)
And even for the billionaires:

  • Thirteen 1980 vintage America’s Cup winning campaigns
  • 2 ½ 2007 America’s Cup winning campaigns
  • 24 Newport mansions like the one Larry Ellison just bought
It seems the world has lost track of where to put the decimal points. And I really don’t understand big numbers.


  1. Wow. That certainly makes you think. I wonder if Larry really could be motivated to be a sailing philanthropist of this order?

    Another way to look at it would be to say that Larry spent about 1% of his net worth on this campaign (over a couple of years). I bet there are a lot of local sailors who spend more than 0.5% of their net worth per year on their sailing!

    It's all about a sense of proportion.

  2. Gerald's college sailing team has no coach and a couple of FJ's that his mates describe as "more patch than original hull". The only nice things they have are a couple of boats modified for handicapped/ disability sailing access. And their budget and distance from other schools limit them to four trips a year... but they have to borrow boats from other schools because their own are so decrepit. An interesting contrast.