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Larry Ellison juggles America's Cup and Oracle customer expo

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison watches Oracle Team USA compete against Emirates Team New Zealand during Race 16 of the 34th America's Cup yacht sa
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison watches Oracle Team USA compete against Emirates Team New Zealand during Race 16 of the 34th America's Cup yacht sa

By Noel Randewich

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The 34th America's Cup underway on San Francisco Bay is going on longer than Oracle Team USA backer Larry Ellison expected and is now overlapping with his software company's massive annual customer conference.

America's Cup sailing is a major passion for Ellison, rivaled only by his focus on expanding what is already the world's third largest software maker.

The next match-ups for Ellison's team in the America's Cup, which could easily be the final ones in the regatta, are set for Tuesday at roughly the same time he is scheduled to give a major keynote at Oracle OpenWorld, which kicked off on Sunday at San Francisco's main convention center.

Oracle Team USA won its fifth straight race on Monday, denying Emirates Team New Zealand the final victory it needs in order to claim the Cup, which organizers originally thought would be settled by last Saturday at the latest.

With over 60,000 people registered, this year's OpenWorld conference is a major opportunity for the Ellison to pitch Oracle's strategy on cloud computing and other technology designed for companies and governments.

Ellison's main keynote is always a focal point of the event, an opportunity he often uses to attack rival companies and colorfully criticize their products to the delight of attendees.

A spokeswoman declined to say whether Oracle will reschedule Ellison's Tuesday speech.

On Sunday, hours before opening Oracle OpenWorld with a speech in which he debuted new high-end data center technology, Ellison was out on the Bay as his team beat Emirates Team New Zealand in two races.

Ellison also met with a few of the Oracle crew members on Sunday evening, according to Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill.

"He's really excited, obviously. I bet he wishes he was out on the boat racing because he's just a natural competitor," Spithill told reporters. "On the other side, he's obviously a very busy man running a business."

Last week, Ellison was absent from Oracle's quarterly earnings conference call with analysts so that he could be close to the racing, which the sailing enthusiast has been viewing from a team speedboat.

OpenWorld attendees are likely to be forgiving if Ellison reschedules his Tuesday speech.

"As long as customers can hear from Larry and he can talk through his vision at Oracle OpenWorld, that's the focal point," said FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives. "It's what comes out of his mouth rather than the timing of when it comes out."

Oracle's sponsorship of the America's Cup team gives the company a major marketing opportunity it regularly leverages at OpenWorld.

Oracle President Mark Hurd kicked off his keynote on Monday with an action-packed video of Oracle Team USA racing their high-tech AC72 catamaran, with captions including "Extreme Performance" and "Powered by Oracle." He also led attendees, many of them IT employees at Fortune 500 companies, in a cheer to support the team.

Reporters who have been in San Francisco covering the America's Cup for the past few weeks had trouble on Sunday and Monday extending their hotel stays because rooms have been sold out to tens of thousands of Oracle OpenWorld visitors.

Oracle Team USA won the America's Cup in Valencia, Spain in 2010 and with it the right to set the rules for this year's competition, including choosing to hold the regatta on San Francisco Bay.

(Additional reporting by Poornima Gupta; Editing by Alden Bentley)

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