We know what you're going to say: The Kookaburras are at it again.
The only protest raised on the first day of the 23rd Congressional Cup yacht races at Long Beach Wednesday was by Iain Murray's crew against two-time champion Dave Perry.
Perry won the opening race by 40 seconds after Murray jumped the gun and had to restart 29 seconds behind.
The protest: Perry's mainsail was raised too high.
After 3 1/2 hours of testimony and deliberation, the jury upheld the protest, dropping Perry to 1-1 and boosting Murray to 2-0.
Most racing sailboats have black bands near the top and bottom of the mast marking the limit to which the sail may be hoisted. Theoretically, carrying a sail higher could be an advantage, and the Congressional Cup is based on the proposition that all boats are created equal--and are going to stay that way.
Murray's crew claimed that the head of Perry's sail was about three inches above the band. During the next round, when Perry was racing Dave Dellenbaugh, Murray called it to the attention of two race committee members who were patrolling the course in a chase boat. They checked it out and agreed.
"We noticed it after the race," tactician Peter Gilmour said. "We just wanted a clarification."
However, unlike the America's Cup defender trials at Fremantle, Australia, where Murray and the Kookaburras were notorious for their protests, they never unfurled their red protest flag.
Instead, they waited until after the second of Wednesday's two races, when Perry also had beaten Dave Dellenbaugh to go 2-0 and share the early lead with three sailors still tightly tuned from America's Cup competition--Stars & Stripes navigator Peter Isler, New Zealand's Chris Dickson and England's Eddie Owen, who was part-time navigator on White Crusader.
Murray said: "We wanted to be sure. Then when we passed close to him in the second race we saw it was above the band."
Perry's tactician, Brad Dellenbaugh, said: "We didn't know about it until we hit the dock. They could have said something when we sailed past 'em five minutes after the (first) race. We said, 'Too bad about the start,' but they didn't say anything.
"I know why they didn't say anything then. We're a competitor and they wanted to protest us out of the second race, too."
Congressional Cup Notes
Because of attention to gear details raised at Wednesday morning's skippers' meeting, the 10 boats left the dock at the Long Beach Yacht Club two hours late at noon and started racing 2 1/2 hours behind schedule at 1:30 p.m. Otherwise, there would have been no problem running three rounds in the 10 to 17 knots of wind, which they'll have to do at least once over the next three days to avoid running over into Sunday. . . . The two latecomers took their lumps. Olympic gold medalist Carl Buchan and local veteran Barney Flam, who were invited to replace the French and Italian sailors who withdrew only a week ago, both lost to Dickson and their other opponents.
It was hardly fair, but Buchan said: "We aren't looking for any excuses." Flam: "I couldn't get a feel for the boat. I was just outsailed." . . . Robbie Haines, the fleet's other Olympic champion, took advantage when Dave Dellenbaugh's jib sheet got tangled around a winch on the mast to take the lead and win by 50 seconds. Then Haines seemed on his way to a win over Murray until he sailed into a pocket of light wind on the last downwind leg, tried to jibe out of it and stalled as Murray sailed past to win by 41 seconds. . . . Young John Shadden, representing the host club, was on the verge of two upsets, first against Isler and then Owen. He led Isler by 10 seconds around the last mark of the two-lap, windward-leeward course, but when his crew doused the spinnaker a sheet fouled the rudder and he was unable to steer to cover Isler, who sailed away to clear air and won by 22 seconds. The lead changed twice against Owen, who said: "We were just faster tacking. We've got some big guys that are pulling in the genoa without winding the (winch) handles. One of them, Chris Mason, we call 'The Bear.' " . . . The first round today matches Murray and Dickson in a Down Under sailoff. They didn't meet in Fremantle because Dennis Conner eliminated Dickson in the challenge final, 4-1.