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Sailing : Rivals Working While They Wait

July 24, 1988|Rich Roberts

It will be two months Monday since the New York Supreme Court hearing on whether San Diego will be permitted to sail a catamaran against New Zealand's monohull in the America's Cup.

Meanwhile, both sides are proceeding as if there is really going to be an event in September.

The big boat has a new mast--still 150 feet but lighter and stronger than the first--and a longer bowsprit, stretching the vessel's overall length by 9 feet, to 132 feet, and giving the headsail a shot of fresher air.

The first Stars & Stripes catamaran will soon have a new airfoil sail, 20% larger than the first.

Both sides decided their boats were underpowered in the mild zephyrs off San Diego. Perhaps they should have harnessed the hot air emitting from both camps.

For example, whereas New Zealand protests that the contest would be a mismatch and submitted a 5-inch stack of documentation to the court to prove it, Stars & Stripes is trying hard to make it sound like a tossup.

"In those (eight-knot) winds," design chief John Marshall concluded after comparing the boats for a Sail America press release, "it looks like neither of the . . . boats will be favored."

New Zealand spokesman Graeme Colman countered, "Common sense tells us a mono will not beat a multi."

New Zealand, matching its foe release for release, said that "scores of (local San Diego) residents are telling team members they want a 'fair and square' fight for the Cup, not one involving a multihull against a monohull."

Marshall says the Kiwis "are having mechanical problems . . . (because) many days they come in after sailing an hour or two. They've obviously broken something, or the mast is not in control."

Translation: That's why they're not going as fast as the catamarans.

Colman: "The fact is we've had only one breakage, and it was a clew in our mainsail. That (information) says more about their spying program than it does about our boat."

And so it goes, while they wait for the ruling.

Sail America executive director Tom Ehman says, "We haven't just been sitting around waiting."

On one front they have figured out how to set a turning mark 20 miles out to sea, in case there is no agreement to alter the basic, archaic racing instructions in the Deed of Gift.

On other fronts, plans are well along for a media center and the social events attached to an America's Cup spectacle.

Until the ruling is made, nobody knows whether a catamaran will sail in the America's Cup.

But Pete Melvin and crew Pat Muglia will sail a Tornado catamaran in the Olympics.

Melvin, 26, from Long Beach, and Muglia, 25, from San Diego, won the Tornado competition at the U.S. trials concluding at Newport, R.I., last weekend, although they were rated no better than third as late as two weeks before the trials.

Then '84 silver medalist Randy Smyth withdrew to concentrate on helping Dennis Conner sail his catamaran, and then Melvin-Muglia upset the Gary Knapp-Chris Steinfeld team by winning 4 of 6 races.

"We were the underdogs," Melvin said, "but we'd been sailing these boats only two years. We kept improving."

They hope to continue improving, with help from Smyth and Knapp. Smyth may work with them on boat handling and downwind speed when the entire team trains at Long Beach in August.

"Randy's always been fast downwind, and we're still a little erratic," Melvin said.

Then Knapp will accompany them to Santa Cruz or San Francisco to practice in wind and water conditions similar to those in Suyong Bay off Pusan, South Korea.

Knapp and Steinfeld were named alternates to the team, along with Cory Fischer and Finn sailor Russ Silvestri. Fischer was Susan Taylor's crew in women's 470 competition.

Melvin moved to Long Beach from Florida two years ago. He is an engineer at McDonnell Douglas.

"I was supposed to be back to work yesterday," he said early this week. "I owe a lot to them. Not everybody would be so generous in giving somebody time off to go sailing."

Sailing Notes

Dennis Conner will take Ted Turner for a ride on the Stars & Stripes catamaran Monday. Conner recently won a match race event in Germany for three-man crews on Belgian-made ETAP-22s. One of Conner's crew was named Albert Schweitzer. . . . The Newport Beach Nautical Museum will feature past Olympic sailing events in an exhibit opening Aug. 4. The museum is at 1714 West Balboa Blvd.

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