In praise of 17

© ORACLE TEAM USA / Javier Salinas

You may think that "17" is  an odd number to celebrate. But with today marking 17 days to go until the first race of the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Qualifiers in Bermuda, today we are indeed celebrating 17.

A quick look around the ORACLE TEAM USA base at Royal Naval Dockyard shows that it is everywhere. 

So why 17?

Well, 2017 is the year of the 35th America's Cup.

And 17 is the name of ORACLE TEAM USA's America's Cup Class yacht.

In fact, 17 has been the name or number of the team's boat dating back to 2010, when the giant trimaran the team raced ot its first America's Cup win was designated USA 17.

In 2013, the team successfully defended the America's Cup in its AC72 foiling catamaran. Again, the engraving on the America's Cup trophy is indicated a win for USA 17.

And when ORACLE TEAM USA takes to the water to race for the first time on May 26 - 17 days from now - it will do so in a boat with a prominent 17 emblazoned on the side of both hulls.

So again, why 17? Is it a lucky number?

For the last two editions of the America's Cup, 17 has been the number of the winning boat, in both instances against great odds. 

But the reason may date back even further, all the way to 1998, when ORACLE TEAM USA founder Larry Ellison raced in the offshore classic Sydney to Hobart race on his maxi yacht Sayonara

This particular edition of the 628 mile annual race was nothing short of horrific. A major storm engulfed the fleet, pounding it with hurricane force winds and towering seas.

Only 44 of 115 boats that started the race made it to the finishing line. Six competitors died. 

Sayonara was the first boat to arrive safely in Hobart. At the time, Ellison was candid about the impact of the experience. In fact, it was a major reason he shifted his sailing attention from offshore racing, to the pinnacle event of the sport, the America's Cup.

And ten years after the 1998 race, when he was interviewed by an Australian newspaper, he recalled: "It was a life-changing experience... We knew there were boats sinking when we got in, we knew people were in trouble still out there in the midst of it and we were enormously grateful having made it."

As fate would have it, the boat that delivered Ellison and his crew through that storm, Sayonara, carried the number US-17.

So is it a lucky number?

We're not particularly superstitious. But let's just agree that it certainly hasn't been unlucky!

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