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New Waves, New Tack for Beach Boys : Sailing: Pop group will raise money for an America's Cup Syndicate. They aim at '92 Challenge.

September 06, 1990|RICH ROBERTS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Let's go sailin' now, everybody's learnin' how . . .

Those natty cats in blue blazers who run the America's Cup nearly fell off their deck chairs a couple of months ago, when a 1939 Ford Woody with surfboards on top pulled up in front of the yacht club. Five men jumped out, kicked the sand off their feet and asked where they could go to enter the race.

Well, it wasn't quite like that, but the imagery plays well.

We're talking fantasy here, and after all, much of what the rest of the world knows about California was influenced from the early 1960s, when the Beach Boys' recorded musical hits started rolling in like the waves at Huntington Beach.

Surfing was the craze, now the Boys can slide gracefully into middle age and their natural transition: sailing. Change a word here, a beat there and it's all the same warm sun and salty air:

Everybody's gone sailin', Sailin' USA . . .

The Beach Boys' USA syndicate is one of three groups hoping to win the right to defend the Cup for the San Diego Yacht Club in trials scheduled to start in January 1992. There were four until Peter Isler's team dropped out Aug. 29, and the remainder--Dennis Conner, Larry Klein and the Beach Boys--each must show a $6-million stack of chips by Oct. 1 to stay in the game. Eventually, each will need about $15 million to play in this terribly expensive game.

Conner already has his $6 million, and it wouldn't seem to be a serious order for one of the most successful musical groups ever, except that the Boys don't have a royalty of their own invested in the project. They won't even help sail the boat--that's John Bertrand's job--let alone clean the bottom.

What they Beach Boys are contributing is their good name and space for sponsors on a concert tour, most of it scheduled for next year. The campaign will get a boost from a sold-out concert Sunday at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.

Syndicate Chairman David Lowry said the 1991 tour will do a minimum of 125 dates in 75 cities, including 50 "major markets."

"It's not Abilene, Kan.," Lowry said. "When you see what the Beach Boys are throwing in, it's staggering."

For sponsorship packages of $1 1/2 million, $3 million or $5 million, Lowry said, "A corporate sponsor, in addition to everything they get on the boats, gets signing on all handouts of the concerts, signing above the stage, corporate display booths at the concerts, large amounts of tickets to the concerts, backstage passes for the VIPs, photo sessions with the band, hats . . .

"A year before the America's Cup even takes place, our corporate sponsors are being blasted all over America. The bang you get for a buck with us doesn't compare to any other syndicate worldwide . . . actually for less money than what Dennis is offering."

The idea was born on all the impulse of a horn honking at the curb and a shout, "Surf's up!"

Bertrand and boat designers Doug Peterson, John Reichel and Jim Pugh were sitting around itching to jump into the America's Cup game. They had the credentials. All they needed was the $15 million.

Peterson knew Lowry, who is a member of the San Diego Yacht Club and a neighbor of Elliott Lott, who is the president of the Beach Boys.

"I've known him many years," Lowry said. "Doug Peterson called me and was frustrated that he and Jim Pugh and John Reichel and John Bertrand had all this talent and weren't tied into any syndicate, and said: 'Why don't you put a syndicate together?'

"I laughed at him. I said, 'I'm not that foolish'--plus you need a special hook. With the money that's necessary, trying to do a Dennis Conner-lookalike campaign isn't going to work.

That was early June.

"I was lying in bed that night and I saw on the side of the boat the Beach Boys with palm trees," Lowry said. "I called Elliott about 11 at night and said, 'I've got this crazy idea.' He called me back the next day and said, 'I like it, let's talk about it.'

"Within a week, we put the concept together, and the next day we went to meet with the (America's Cup) Organizing Committee. They looked at us and thought we were crazy, but the more they thought about it, the more they liked it.

"We said, 'We'll come back in 30 days and tell you if we're a go or not.' We came back in 30 days. That was the day we announced, and the next day they accepted us as a (potential) defender."

Bertrand said: "We really didn't want to announce at that time and be lumped in with those groups that weren't that serious. But we were forced to show our hand, and that was probably good. What we've accomplished in three months is quite amazing."

Catch a wave and you're sittin' on top of the world . . .

Bertrand has been there. In 1984, the Newport Beach resident earned an Olympic silver medal in the Finn class, and last year, he sailed Longobarda to the world maxi championship. He also was tactician aboard Courageous in the 1983 America's Cup campaign and on America II off Fremantle, Australia, in 1986-87.

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