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

Julian Guthrie. Grove, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2135-6
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, $40 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)
Reviewed on: 05/13/2013
Release date: 05/01/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
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