There may be an inglorious end to the new but unfulfilled Age of Russia.
The yacht belonging to the racing syndicate Age of Russia, built to compete in the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger trials, instead may end up as a junk pile on dry land, without its hull ever touching the waters off Point Loma.
As early as Thursday, the 75-foot Russian boat, a symbol of the new Russia that rose from the ashes of Communism, could be hauled to the Miramar landfill, where it would be flattened by a 250,000-pound earthmover and buried with San Diego's household trash.
The Age of Russia arrived in San Diego in December, but the syndicate was never sanctioned by America's Cup officials to participate in the trials. Furthermore, Age of Russia's boat never got permission from the Port Security Committee to put its boat in the water.
The boat was left high and dry because the syndicate ran out of money and could not afford to transport the vessel back home.
Although the Age of Russia's exact fate is uncertain, it appears it will either wind up as landfill or meet some other unflattering end.
John Knight, president of Knight & Carver Inc., a boatyard on Mission Bay where the yacht has been stored since Dec. 27, said Monday: "We could also fill it with cement, take it to the ocean and sink it."
"That's one way to get the hull in the water," he said.
Marina Kopel, U.S. representative of the Russian syndicate, said the boat was supposed to be sunk Thursday, but the inevitable destruction, whichever form it takes, may be postponed until next week.
"As far as I know, they're going to sink it. They told me it'll happen sometime next week. They were supposed to do it on Thursday. It's sad that it has never touched the water," Kopel said Monday in a telephone interview.
She said the boat cost 6 million rubles to build.
Landfill officials are betting that Knight, who ended up as the boat's legal owner by default, will opt for the landfill as its final resting place. On Monday, authorities at the Waste Management Department said they were making arrangements to accommodate the unwanted yacht "sometime this week" after receiving inquires about the necessary permits.
This boat's almost certain demise ends what began as an improbable, and, perhaps overly ambitious venture by a group of Russian yachtsmen affiliated with the so-called St. Petersburg Russian Yacht Club to participate in the world's premier yacht race.
The Age of Russia was one of two Russian syndicates competing against each other to compete in the America's Cup races. Both efforts proved disastrous.
The other syndicate, Red Star '92, was sanctioned by the America's Cup Organizing Committee to race in the challenger trials, but its boat never left Estonia, where it was being built. Red Star '92 was affiliated with the Ocean Racing Club Leningrad.
Although Knight is hoping to recover some of his company's $100,000 in expenses by offering to unload the Russian boat for a mere $25,000, a U.S. Customs Service official said regulations say such boats either must be destroyed or returned to their country of origin.
Since most of the Russian crew has already returned to Russia, sending the yacht back to St. Petersburg is not a real alternative. Before leaving, the crew gave Knight title to the boat in lieu of expenses owed to the boatyard.
Gurdit Dhillon, local director of inspection and control for the Customs Service, declined to discuss the Age of Russia, but he said normally such vessels are brought into the United States under a temporary importation bond.
Because the Russian syndicate was short of cash, Knight said, he put up the $25,000 importation bond required by customs. Another Knight & Carver official said the bond expires next December and could be extended.
"But the bond is not the problem," Knight said. "The Russian boat is taking up space at the yard and not generating any money. I could use that space to repair boats."
According to Dhillon, "The only way to satisfy the bond is by exporting the merchandise or destroying the merchandise. You can't sell it."
If Knight fails to export the boat or destroy it, customs can hire a company to destroy it and use the bond to pay for destruction costs.
Another possibility is that customs could seize the boat and sell it at a profit to the government.
"The condition of the merchandise would dictate what action the government could take. We have to look at each merchandise on its own merits," said Dhillon.
In this case, the Russian "merchandise" is without such essentials as winches, sails and a cabin. Otherwise, it is a great buy, Knight said.
"It's a terrific opportunity for someone who wants a 75-foot sailboat, made out of carbon fiber, with a heavy-duty steering system and keel," Knight said. "It has a deck, two masts, two booms and two spinnaker poles."
If he were allowed to sell the boat, Knight said, it would cost an owner between $300,000 and $1 million to buy the parts necessary to sail it.