SAN DIEGO — Challenge Australia has a new bowsprit, Spirit of Australia a new keel, the French some new sails and the Italians some new uniforms. Everyone seems ready to start the second round of challenger trials in the America's Cup.
From the first round, when victories counted one point, once-beaten New Zealand and Nippon Challenge lead with six points each, followed by Il Moro di Venezia and Ville de Paris, five; Spirit of Australia, three; Espana '92, two; Tre Kronor of Sweden, one, and Challenge Australia, zero.
Victories in the second round robin will count four points, then eight in the third round starting March 8. The top four will qualify for the semifinals starting March 29.
Today's leadoff match--scheduled for noon, weather permitting--features France's Ville de Paris against Nippon.
The last match, between New Zealand--fastest in the first round--and Spirit of Australia, might offer a clue to whether Iain Murray, the '87 defense finalist with Kookaburra, has been able to get his only boat up to speed with major modifications.
America 3's two boats will race each other as the defender trials continue on an adjacent course.
Syd Fischer's Challenge Australia is the only rival to copy New Zealand's controversial bowsprit, pending a ruling by the America's Cup international jury, although the French are considering it.
Challenge Australia was so slow in the first round that Fischer forfeited the last three races to start fixing it. But the thing about making drastic changes is that sometimes they make the boat go \o7 slower\f7 .
Skipper Phil Thompson, who lives in Newport Beach and runs a recycling business, said, "I think there's a very small chance we would have gone backwards."
But there always is that chance. Ask Dennis Conner.
Conner's Stars & Stripes tried a radical keel and rudder configuration in the first three races of the second round of the defender trials, but the boat slipped sideways so badly when sailing upwind that it was out of contention before the first mark.
The beautiful blue boat, its mainsail flapping, behaved like an elegant, inebriated lady who had her clothes askew and couldn't quite stand up straight.
The boat was fine off the wind. It probably would have done well in the San Diego-to-Manzanillo race that started Friday.
But upwind it was so bad that America 3 rival Bill Koch told Conner he should change it in mid-round so he could provide better competition.
When stormy weather wiped out Wednesday's race, Stars & Stripes switched back to its old keel and, with Conner at the Miami Boat Show selling shoes, John Bertrand steered it Thursday to its first victory over America 3's Defiant.
Il Moro di Venezia skipper Paul Cayard guessed Friday that Stars & Stripes was about the same as it was January but that Defiant had gone backwards.
Cup espionage is such that teams seem to know their rivals' most intimate underwater secrets. They just won't tell \o7 their\f7 secrets.
"Defiant is different than it was in the first round," Cayard said. "It has much longer wings, and what I saw (Thursday) made me believe that maybe Defiant is slower than she was in the first round."
Cayard said Defiant has delta-shaped wings, 5 meters wide, extending from the end of its keel bulb.
"They're huge," he said. "Typical delta wings . . . same shape as the ones before, just much bigger. Big, wide span, almost max-beam span, on the bulb . . . the tail of the bulb.
"On that last beat when (Stars & Stripes) passed (Defiant) and it was light (wind) and lumpy (seas), those were conditions I remember when even a 12-meter started to get a little draggy.
"Both boats in the first round had wings--Defiant and Jayhawk--but they were more like a 2 1/2- to 3-meter span."
Cayard, whose compound is across Fisherman's Harbor from America 3, said he wasn't sure about the new America 3 boat that has beaten Stars & Stripes, with the discarded keel, by 6:23 and 6:00.
"We haven't got a good look at that yet," he said. "I imagine it has wings, but I don't think it has the longer ones. And I'm not so sure it's all that great because Defiant's going slower, and so was Dennis when he raced them."
The educated thinking is that Koch is more conservative, despite Cayard's view that he's dragging a miniature F-14 under Defiant.
Koch said of Conner's failed experiment: "He went out on a limb. He took a gigantic risk. His designers all believed it would work. I don't think they did adequate research.
"We had tested a similar concept in our tank test wind tunnel. At first, it appeared very promising. Then we went back and studied it again and it became clear it wasn't very good."
Conner's team tried the concept with two Hobie 33 monohulls--one with a conventional keel--and the radical rig worked better, with negligible leeway.
However, the designers reasoned later, the Hobie's sail plan was much smaller than that of an International America's Cup Class boat and less subject to lateral pressure.