By Noel Randewich
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Oracle Corp CEO Larry Ellison skipped a keynote address at his software company's massive annual customer conference on Tuesday to be on San Francisco Bay as his Oracle Team USA made a comeback in the America's Cup.
Hundreds of Oracle OpenWorld attendees streamed out of San Francisco's Moscone conference center after an Oracle executive announced that Ellison was still on a boat and would not attend the keynote presentation, a focal point of the annual event.
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.
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.
In the past, Ellison has used his OpenWorld keynote to attack rival companies and colorfully criticize their products to the delight of attendees.
At least a few of the more than 60,000 people registered to attend this year's OpenWorld were disappointed by Ellison's absence.
"I can understand his dedication to the racing, but it does send an interesting message to the audience here about his priorities," said Mason McDaniel, whose company spent a few thousand dollars in travel expenses to send him from Washington, D.C., to OpenWorld, one of San Francisco's biggest tech conferences.
Oracle Team USA won its seventh straight race on Tuesday and looked set to keep the Cup from rival Emirates Team New Zealand.
The Cup, which has gone on longer than expected due to unfavorable weather, will go to whichever team wins the next race, scheduled for Wednesday.
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.
(Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Ken Wills)