Larry Ellison skips OpenWorld keynote to watch America's Cup

Ellison cancelled his keynote at the last minute to watch a crucial race against New Zealand

Larry Ellison had a choice on Tuesday afternoon: watch a crucial race for his America's Cup sailing team or deliver a keynote to thousands of customers and partners at Oracle OpenWorld. In the end, the Oracle CEO stayed down by the water.

Ellison cancelled his keynote at the last minute to watch Oracle Team USA in a crucial race. Both events were due to start at 2:15 p.m. Pacific time.

Oracle chairman Jeff Henley took the stage at OpenWorld with an embarrassed half-smile. "Larry apologizes," Henley said. "Can't be in two places at once." Attendees immediately began streaming out of the massive conference hall at San Francisco's Moscone Center.

Ellison's speech was given instead by Thomas Kurian, executive vice president of product development -- who had just given a keynote on Tuesday morning and was apparently asked to revive the effort.

"The line was out the door to get in this place," said OpenWorld attendee Dan Loomis, an IT architect who asked his employer's name be withheld. "[Ellison's keynote] seems to be the highlight of the conference for a lot of people."

"My CEO would say that talking to customers and partners is a priority," he said. Ellison skipping the speech "sends the wrong message," Loomis said.

Ellison is an avid sailor whose team won the previous America's Cup, and he fought hard to bring this year's tournament to San Francisco Bay.

Few expected Oracle Team USA to still be in the contest Tuesday, but the team has made a remarkable recovery to come back against Emirates Team New Zealand.

At one point last week the Kiwis led by eight races to one. They needed one more race to clinch the trophy, while Oracle needed to win eight races in a row. But Oracle staged a comeback and was trailing by one race at the time Ellison cancelled his speech.

In fact, Oracle has won enough races to win this year's Cup, but it started the finals with a two-race deficit because it was found to have cheated in a preliminary round last year.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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