Australia's Alan Bond, frustrated at being shut out of the America's Cup competition between San Diego and New Zealand next September, has sent white feathers--symbols of cowardice--to Sail America and San Diego Yacht Club officials.
The feathers were sent to skipper Dennis Conner, Sail America President Malin Burnham and club Commodore Doug Alford.
In letters accompanying the feathers, Bond wrote that the feather "represents our bitter disappointment with your inexplicable decision to exclude us . . . "
Burnham said, "I didn't know what it meant. The last communication I had with Bond was that he was going to sue us for $250 million. I'd rather accept the feather."
The idea of the white feather comes from cockfighting. A white feather in a gamecock's tail indicates bad breeding resulting in cowardice in the fighting bird. During World War I, women in Europe gave white feathers to seemingly able-bodied men who were not in the service, hoping to shame then into joining up.
"I guess this isn't 'a friendly competition among foreign nations,' " Burnham said, quoting the Deed of Gift that governs Cup competition.
San Diego, forced by the New York Supreme Court to defend against New Zealand's 90-foot-waterline boat this year, has closed the competition to other challengers to enhance its chances of a successful defense and preserve its planned defense with 21 challengers in conventional 12-meter boats in 1991.
Burnham said his group had hoped to meet sometime this week with Michael Fay, New Zealand's challenge head, who is in San Diego meeting with local business and political leaders.
"Sooner or later, we have to work out the format of these (1988) races," Burnham said. "Does he want two out of three or four out of seven? What kind of courses should we sail? But so far we haven't been able to work around his (public relations) schedule."
Sail America has scheduled a press conference this afternoon to discuss its boat design. The group plans to build a catamaran to counter Fay's huge monohull. Preliminary work will be financed by a recent Pepsi Cola sponsorship of more than $2 million.