AUCKLAND, New Zealand - How do you spend upward of $100 million on a sailboat race?
That question is foremost on the minds of the syndicate backers here, where budgets for America's Cup yachts have climbed to staggering levels and money flows like water. Four of the nine challengers are spending more than $60 million each, and nearly all privately grumble that the others are spending more.
"There are a lot of different ways to distribute your money, and only one of them is right," Bill Erkelens, the chief operating officer of Larry Ellison's Oracle-BMW team, said, explaining why he would not give out his team's numbers. "We think it's ours."
Though it is difficult to pin down the specific budgets of the syndicates - and even their declared numbers are suspect - it is possible, based on interviews and data released by teams eliminated from competition, to sketch a basic template of a syndicate budget.
Only a fraction of a budget actually goes toward building sailboats. A carbon fiber America's Cup yacht costs between $2 million and $3 million.
The real financial drain on the current Cup campaign budgets is not hardware, but talent. While some crews stick with their skippers for years, the moguls have had to get their crews on the open market.
A mainsheet trimmer on a top boat can make as much as $240,000. A run-of-the-mill grinder makes around $14,000 a month. Oracle has 36 sailors to crew its two boats, and they have been practicing together for nearly two years. "The moment you start operating on the water is the moment you need everybody," Erkelens said.