America’s Cup : Blackaller, Golden Gate Syndicate Cause Waves Again

Times Staff Writer

In its approach to the America’s Cup, the Golden Gate Challenge of San Francisco has taken on the personality of skipper Tom Blackaller--insufferable.

Especially since launching USA, the first of its two boats, in February, the syndicate has been the noisiest and most visible among the six American challengers.

Both Golden Gate and Chicago’s Heart of America issued press releases claiming victory in practice races this spring.


Blackaller, meanwhile, has managed to offend Chicago’s easygoing Buddy Melges with his abrasive behavior and also forced the resignation of Newport Beach’s Dennis Durgan from the syndicate.

“I chose to bow out gracefully,” Durgan said. “If I wanted to be in politics I’d run for office. I’ve already won an America’s Cup.” That was as tactician for Dennis Conner aboard Freedom in 1980.

Blackaller, who criticized Conner in ’83 for failing to cooperate with other Americans in a development program, will test his second 12-meter against Chicago again when Melges returns in late June with his new boat--not the old modified Clipper. Outclassed Canada I also will return in a new combined national effort with True North of Nova Scotia, which ran out of money.

Earlier possibilities of any of those groups scrimmaging off Long Beach with Eagle of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club now seem dim.

Meanwhile, Blackaller will stay sharp by competing in this weekend’s California Cup big-boat buoy series off Marina del Rey.

The second Golden Gate boat is scheduled to be christened June 17. It currently is nameless, designated R-1 with sail number US 61, but Blackaller said it will be “very radically different” from USA in the underhull. It’s the product of designer Gary Mull and computational physicist Heiner Meldner, who adjusted his priorities and took a year’s leave from the “Star Wars” program at the Livermore Laboratory.

“It’s far beyond the state of the art,” Blackaller said.

With Durgan--once a candidate as helmsman or tactician--gone, Blackaller’s crew now includes tactician Paul Cayard, port trimmer Russ Silvestri and mainsheet trimmer Steve Erickson.

Cayard swept six races to win the Grundig World Cup match racing series in Jenneaux 36s off France last week, defeating a field of America’s Cup rivals that included New Zealand’s Chris Dickson and France’s Marc Pajot, who were second and fifth in the 12-meter Worlds.