Burnham Sees Delay as Defenders Study All Options on Site

Times Staff Writer

Sail America President Malin Burnham says it is likely to take more time than originally anticipated to select a location for the next America's Cup defense.

Burnham said that, in his opinion, a private research firm should be hired to help evaluate and identify the issues that should be considered in selecting a site for the 1990-91 Cup races.

While San Diego is still considered the favorite in the Cup defense sweepstakes, Burnham said in an interview here that the selection process should not be rushed.

"We have to sort out our procedure and timing, and take enough time," Burnham said. "I, for one, think it may take longer than 90 days--that's a time frame that could easily slip."

Sail America and San Diego Yacht Club officials originally said that, after a site selection committee was named, it would take the group 90 days to decide on the location of the next America's Cup regatta.

The members of the site selection committee, to be made up of 7 to 11 people recommended by Sail America, a majority of them from the yacht club, should be picked in about 30 days.

"Rather than get into a bid or option, we have to find out what we have," Burnham said.

He explained that the selection of a race location must involve not only the availability of dock and crew facilities, but also other factors such as the suitability for television broadcasting and corporate involvement.

"Frankly, we just have to research this thing," Burnham said.

As the official holder of the Cup, the San Diego Yacht Club has great latitude to make its own rules and set its own deadlines when it comes to deciding on a place and time for the next races.

It's apparent from comments of Stars & Stripes crew members and their friends and relatives who accompanied them during their victory tour in Washington and New York this week that many of them prefer Hawaii as the site for a defense. There is a feeling among many of them that sailing conditions in Hawaii, where skipper Dennis Conner and his crew trained for several months before the Cup challenge in Australia, are better than San Diego's.

Better not only from a standpoint of strong winds, but also better because the potential for exciting racing would continue the momentum of favorable public appeal created by the dramatic, televised regatta off Fremantle.

Conner himself avoided making any specific comments about where he would like the next Cup races to be held. Burnham, speaking for himself and Conner, stuck to the response he gave in San Diego last Saturday, that the decision is up to the committee and not any one individual.

San Diego, however, is the choice of some crew members who believe the city deserves to be host because of its loyalty to the Stars & Stripes endeavor.

"San Diego people were there when we needed them. It would be hard to turn our back on them," Tom Whidden, Stars & Stripes tactician, said while talking to reporters after the crew's White House reception. "If you pick the right time of the year, San Diego will be all right."

With their East Coast celebrations now ended, crew members headed their separate ways Wednesday, some back to Australia to pack up their gear, others to Florida for a new round of ocean racing, and still others to their hometowns.

But the business of the America's Cup, from continued fund raising and solicitation of corporate sponsors to the naming of a Cup defense site, moves back to San Diego.

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