America's Cup Trials : Collision Gives Steak'n Kidney Its First Victory

From Staff and Wire Reports

The only way Steak'n Kidney, the boat from Sydney, ever figured to win a race was if its opponent didn't finish.

That's how it happened in the America's Cup defender trials Saturday when Steak'n Kidney T-boned South Australia, slashing open the port side and catapulting helmsman Phil Thompson overboard and under the rival 12-meter.

"What they did was extremely dangerous," said Thompson, who suffered minor cuts and bruises before being rescued by a tender. "They hunted us, that's the yachting term. It was a totally unfair fouling, not within the rules. I ended up in the water and went under their boat."

South Australia's skipper, John Savage, said: "There was no attempt to avoid a collision."

Steak'n Kidney is skippered by Fred Neill, who had no comment.

South Australia (4-12) had rounded the first windward mark 1:40 ahead, and Steak'n Kidney was headed to the buoy when the collision occurred.

While both boats unfurled their protest flags, race observers noted that South Australia had violated a basic right-of-way rule. When both boats are on starboard tacks (the wind coming over the right side), the boat upwind must give way to the other, so it appeared that South Australia was at fault.

The international jury overseeing the contest scheduled a meeting today to determine who was to blame.

The bow on Steak'n Kidney was sliced open on the starboard side, but the 12-meter limped around all eight legs of the 24.5-mile course to record its first win in 16 races.

South Australia suffered a two-foot tear along its aluminum hull extending 18 inches into the decking. South Australia operations manager Scott McAllister said the spinnaker and mainsail were destroyed and much of the rigging was damaged, but he expected the boat to be ready for today's race against Australia III.

While a severely disabled South Australia was towed back to the Fremantle berth, the Kookaburras and Alan Bond syndicate boats indulged in some suspiciously non-competitive team sailing, allowing their primary boats to win.

Kookaburra III (15-1) retained first place with a four-second edge over her golden-hulled stablemate, Kookaburra II (11-5), while Bond's Australia IV (12-4) clung to second place with a predictable 70-second victory over defending champion Australia III (5-11).

Kookaburra III skipper Iain Murray trailed the eight-month-older Kookaburra II for six legs before pulling one length ahead at the last mark. The two boats were within one length of each other for the entire last leg.

Australia IV, the boat 1983 Cup winner Bond is depending upon to defend the trophy for the Aussies, stayed ahead of Australia III all the way, but not by much.

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