New Zealand claims to be gaining support in its bid to sail the next America's Cup in larger boats in 1988 instead of 12-meters in '91, as San Diego's defenders prefer.
While awaiting judgment in the dispute from the New York Supreme Court, Michael Fay's New Zealand Challenge group informally polled other syndicates during last week's meeting of the International 12-Meter Assn. in London.
"A majority of syndicates privately indicated they would race in 90-foot yachts if New Zealand's court case was successful," spokesman Peter Debreceny said in Los Angeles while en route home over the weekend.
"The syndicates expressed special interest in short campaigns because it would result in lower costs, and that bigger exposure for the amount of time makes financing easier."
Debreceny quoted John Longley, representing Alan Bond's Australian syndicate, as saying that "90-footers would be one-third (as expensive as) a 12-meter campaign."
The reasoning is that although each larger boat would be much more expensive than a conventional 12-meter, the campaigns would involve only one boat and one year rather than two or three boats and a four-year development program.
Debreceny said: "There also is a concern among all the 12-meter syndicates that there hasn't been a decision (on New Zealand's challenge). What the decision is really doesn't matter to them. They just want to know so they can get their programs going."
Britain's Peter DeSavary, Debreceny said, "is running both (12-meter and 90-foot) programs side by side, and he's ready to push the button."
There was a report late last week that Philip Tolhurst, attorney for the British challenge, would serve as mediator in the dispute.
Tom Ehman, executive director of San Diego's Sail America Foundation, said the report was "erroneous."
Apparently, Gianfranco Alberini of Italy, president of the 12-meter association, said that should be his responsibility.
Alberini, concerned that 12-meters would be left out if Fay wins his case, asked him to withdraw his challenge but did not ask the San Diego Yacht Club to withdraw its connected action to rewrite the Cup's Deed of Gift so the defender--not a challenger--could dictate terms.
When Fay pointed out that the association has no authority in running the America's Cup, Alberini agreed that it was not the association's policy to take sides--and asked San Diego to withdraw its action, as well.
The 12-meter association is heavily weighted with Sail America interests, who are firmly aligned with the San Diego Yacht Club. Ehman is the newly elected vice president, and John Marshall is the U.S. representative.
New Zealand lawyer Andrew Johns, the syndicate rules expert and legal counsel, represents that nation.
After the New York hearing of Sept. 9, San Diego set an entry deadline for '91 of last Oct. 31, which 18 international syndicates--New Zealand not among them--met with $25,000 fees, refundable if New Zealand wins its case for '88.
Ehman warned that the deadline will not be extended, nor will allowances be made for latecomers.
Fay protested: "We have already lodged our America's Cup challenge--for 1988--(and) it is unreasonable to demand that challengers meet deadlines and pay entry fees while the timing and class of yacht for the next Cup are undecided."
New Zealand did not send money or a challenge but later, New Zealand project director Laurent Esquier said, "(Ehman) said they would be very happy to see us sail in '91," if the Kiwis lose their case.
New York Supreme Court Judge Carmen Ciparick has indicated her decision will not be made soon. Meanwhile, construction of New Zealand's boat proceeds in Auckland and it is expected to be launched about Feb. 28.
Debreceny said: "New Zealand (and other syndicates are) eager for a speedy resolution in order to properly plan their campaigns."