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Sailing / Richard Buffum

She's Not Too Comfy, but She's Fast

March 06, 1985

"My, God, she looks like a submarine!" commented a shipyard worker who poked his head down a starboard hatch of the 12-Meter yacht moored at Long Beach's Marina Shipyard the other day.

The yacht was Magic, given a "bottom-lift" of a new winged keel that would stabilize her sailing performance in heavy airs. Rod Davis, 29, Olympic gold medalist as part of Robbie Haines' Soling crew and now skipper of Magic, was posing amiably for photographers at one of the racing machine's twin wheels. Magic's tactician, Douglas Rastello, 33, a veteran of the Canada's Cup and the Admiral's Cup, grasped the other wheel. Peter Stalkus, 34, a ship captain by profession, will be her navigator.

These veteran racing sailors have the Eagle Syndicate's hopes pinned on them as winners of the America's Cup, wresting the venerable trophy from the Australians in 1987 and bringing it home to Newport Beach.

They will sail Magic for the Eagle Syndicate, under the auspices of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, as a laboratory 12--Meter off Long Beach most of this year. This means they will gather performance data that should be useful in the design of the syndicate's challenger, Eagle, a 12-Meter being designed by Johann Valentijn.

Magic is expected to be in the water sailing by the middle of this week. When I visited her in the shipyard, she had her boom removed and riggers were at work on her shrouds.

Magic's specifications should give an idea of the size of the challenger Eagle, which, according to Skipper Davis, is expected to be launched at Newport, R.I., at the shipyard of her builder, Williams and Manchester, around the first of the year.

When pressed for a precise target date, Davis replied, "You just don't rush progress." Magic is 60 feet overall; length at waterline is 44 feet; mast height from deck, 88 feet; beam, 12-feet 3-inches; draft, 8-feet 6-inches; displacement, 44,000 pounds; keel, 34,000 pounds; sail area, 2,200 square feet.

My impression was similar to that of the worker who looked below. She was a mass of sailing's high technology: Panels of dials abounded among the barest of structural entities. She was truly a machine. To a cruising sailor such as myself, she lacked everything a boat should have--a cozy cabin with bunks to stretch out on and a galley. She was simply a hold to stow sails in and a sleek platform on which to carry her crew of 11 amid a welter of lines leading to the big winches, resembling space-age adaptations of old-fashioned clothes wringers.

It is easy for a careless sailor to slip into the drink, as there are no lifelines on Magic's deck. This, coupled with the absence of toilet facilities, not even a cedar bucket, boggled my imagination.

Davis said Magic will be sailed mostly off Long Beach waters, where the wind is stiffer and more constant than off Newport Beach. These are conditions similar to those which will be found off Perth, Australia, the site of the next Cup.

Magic will be tested for speed and tuning in trial races, beginning about March 20, when the 12-Meter yacht Victory '83 of the Yacht Club Italiano arrives at the Marina Shipyard, Long Beach. Full regatta match series No. 1 between Magic and Victory '83 will be held April 6-14. Series No. 2 is scheduled for April 27-30 and Series 3, May 25-27.

The Newport Harbor Yacht Club's Eagle Syndcate bought Magic from the Ft. Schuyler Foundation. Deemed unstable and slow, she had sat on a trailer, unused, while Dennis Conner of San Diego, skipper of Liberty, lost the Cup to the Australians off Newport, R.I., in 1983. Magic's new winged keel should convert her to a competent, possibly excellent, racing boat, Davis believes.

Eagle Syndicate already has commitments of more than $1 million. A target of $6 million is required to mount a successful campaign.

After the Eagle is launched and given her shakedown off Newport, R.I., she will either be trucked to Newport Beach or loaded aboard a freighter bound for Perth, said Dick Sargent of the Eagle Syndicate. Sargent also declined to announce a launching date.

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