Multihull Sailor Helping With Cup Defender Design

Times Staff Writer

The United States' foremost multihull sailor has been helping Sail America design a catamaran to meet New Zealand's challenge for the America's Cup this year.

"It will definitely be built," Randy Smyth of Huntington Beach said Thursday.

No design plans have been revealed by Sail America, which will manage the defense for the San Diego Yacht Club. But John Marshall, who heads the design team, indicated recently that two boats might be built--a monohull of a proven type and a radical craft or catamaran.

New Zealand merchant banker Michael Fay insists that San Diego must sail in a boat similar to the monohull with a 90-foot waterline that he had to declare when he issued the controversial challenge last July.

San Diego counters that the Deed of Gift that governs Cup competition implies that the defender can sail any kind of boat, as long as it falls within the limits of 44 and 90 feet at the waterline.

In normal conditions, a catamaran is basically faster than a monohull, a fact that might ensure that San Diego retains the Cup in the 1988 challenge and enable it to go through with its original plans to stage a defense in conventional 12-meter yachts in 1991.

With that in mind, Sail America's design team brought Smyth into the fold.

"It's been a fun project," said Smyth, who won a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics sailing a Tornado catamaran. "Nothing's being built yet, but we've been looking at a lot of different designs on the computer."

The design team also has done performance projections on Fay's boat, from what they know of it--a 90-foot waterline with 26-foot overhanging beam and a planing hull that draws only 3 feet of water, aside from the lead keel.

"It's a very quick, well-designed monohull that will be fast in all conditions," Smyth said.

The fiberglass boat has been under construction in Auckland, New Zealand, and is scheduled to be launched March 27, then shipped to San Diego. It was designed by Bruce Farr, who built New Zealand's surprisingly competitive fiberglass KZ-7 12-meter for the last America's Cup and other major regatta winners. He was recently honored as the world's top boat designer in 1987 by the French sailing magazine L'Annee Bateaux.

Asked if Sail America wouldn't be taking a chance in building a catamaran that could be disqualified if Fay takes his case to court again, Smyth said, "It might also be risky to build a monohull that might not be fast enough to win, and we don't have a lot of time now."

Fay, pursuing the challenger's right to race for the Cup on 10 months' notice, has targeted Sept. 15 as the date of the first race. The competition will be best of three, unless San Diego and Fay agree to another format.

San Diego has said it may not announce the venue until 90 days before the event, and rumors have been circulating that it could be Long Beach, Santa Cruz, San Francisco or Hawaii, all of which have stronger winds than San Diego's usual 10 knots.

"The big thing wrong with a place like Hawaii or Santa Cruz is that the wind might be so strong that the boat might break and cause you to lose," Smyth said.

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