Trophy in Hawaii, but yacht race is unlikely to follow

While Norbert Bajurin looks forward to some activity in Hawaii regarding the 2017 America’s Cup, the commodore whose yacht club holds the coveted trophy does not foresee the race coming here.

“We’re working on it. Honestly, we may not have it here,” said Bajurin, during an interview with The Maui News before his appearance at the Better Business Bureau’s Lunch and Learn event Thursday at the King Kamehameha Golf Club in Waikapu.

“Perhaps, we’ll have a training thing,” he said in reference to Hawaii’s involvement.

Bajurin is commodore of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Yacht Club, which is the current holder of the America’s Cup won by Larry Ellison’s Team Oracle USA in 2013. The cup was on display at the luncheon in Waikapu before making a trek to the Lahaina Yacht Club in West Maui.

As holder of the cup, Bajurin’s club has a say in where the race will take place in 2017.

“I want to see it back in San Francisco,” said Bajurin.

He said considerations for choosing the next race location include spectator venues and the type of seas – advantages for his home waters.

“San Francisco Bay is a natural amphitheater,” he said. “You have to consider how to bring people to the race.”

Bajurin said the swells in Hawaii also may be too rough for the type of boats that compete in the America’s Cup.

“I do love Hawaii,” he said. “Larry (Ellison), in his heart, would love to have it here. We have to run it fairly.”

Other top locations being considered are San Diego and Chicago, though he said the winds may be too light during the summer months in the Windy City.

“Hawaii could possibly be a training ground to sail training catamarans,” said Bajurin. “The people of Hawaii are really receptive. We look forward to having some kind of activity. We have a lot of time.”

Speculation about the race coming to Hawaii started soon after Ellison’s team won the cup; Ellison has owned most of Lanai since 2012. The question of bringing the defense of the cup to Hawaii, given Ellison’s ties to the state, came up during Bajurin’s talk Thursday.

“It could be done here, but you have to have the people (spectators) out there,” Bajurin said in response to a question from the audience.

Technological advancements, especially since the last monohull race in 2007, have been major factors in the evolution of the America’s Cup.

“It’s technology at its best, going from monohulls to fast cats (catamarans and trimarans),” said Bajurin. “It’s 1 to 10 on the excitement level.”

The newer boats can reach speeds of 48 to 50 knots.

Bajurin called Team Oracle USA’s victory last fall “the greatest comeback in history.” Behind 8-1 in the best of 17 series, Team Oracle USA reeled off eight consecutive victories, toppling Emirates Team New Zealand by 44 seconds in the final race to retain the Auld Mug.

He does not think there was a single person in San Francisco not tuned in to the exciting finish and the ultimate come-from-behind victory.

The excitement helped boost sales of Julian Guthrie’s book about the unlikely pairing of Bajurin, a radiator mechanic, and Ellison, co-founder and chief executive officer of Oracle Corp. Guthrie’s “The Billionaire and the Mechanic” also has been named a Forbes Best Book of the Year.

Bajurin said a hundred pages have been added to the book since it came out last May. Both Bajurin and Guthrie signed copies of the book before and after the presentation in Waikapu.

The display of the America’s Cup, the oldest trophy in international sports, may be the closest Hawaii gets to hosting the hotly contested yacht race.

“What are the odds the cup will come to Hawaii?” asked an audience member after Bajurin’s presentation.

“It’s here,” said Bajurin pointing to the trophy.

* Rich Van Scoy can be reached at