America’s Cup Notebook : In Spite of Mismatch, Kiwis Keep Spirits Up

Times Staff Writer

What kind of morale can a team have when its campaign is based on the conviction that its cause is hopeless?

“The morale of the guys is actually very positive,” Bruce Farr, designer of the New Zealand boat, said Monday.

And, Farr added, it’s not that the Kiwis don’t understand their situation in this week’s America’s Cup races, as stated frequently by syndicate leader Michael Fay, who says it’s a mismatch.

“It’s not just the leadership that knows the position we’re in,” Farr said. “Everybody has known from day one, when Sail America said they were responding (to the New Zealand challenge) with a catamaran.


“I think now they’re focused on showing the world how good a job they can make of it. When the decision was made to race on Sept. 7, the whole team became very focused. Our intention is to get around the course as fast as possible.

"(But) we need to have very unusual conditions or an act of God for the monohull to beat the multihull.”

If Farr is to be taken for his word, the Kiwis have not been sandbagging, nor will they, to strengthen their case against the catamaran when they return to the New York Supreme Court after the event, as Fay has said they will.

“The New Zealand sailing team has never held anything back,” Farr said. “I’ve been on the boat 50% of the sailing time in San Diego, and I’ve never seen a time when they backed off to give the other side a wrong impression.”


Still, the Stars & Stripes brain trust suspects that something is wrong--that their computer modeling projections indicate that the New Zealand boat should be a lot faster than it has shown.

“In actual fact, they modeled the wrong boat,” Farr said. “It is, in fact, a very fast boat . . . performing somewhat better than our expectations.”

Farr thinks Stars & Stripes has been misled by reports that the boat weighed only 60,000 pounds instead of its actual 83,000.

Clay Oliver, one of the Stars & Stripes designers, said they weren’t fooled for long. They figured out the true weight by tracking the big boat with spies aboard an inflatable dinghy when the boat was still being tested in Auckland Harbor.


“In December, we started out with a 12-meter’s weight and decided that couldn’t be right,” Oliver said.

Later they settled on 85,000 and worked their computer speed projections from there.

“We keep getting a sense that they should be going faster,” Oliver said. “Maybe we’re in for some surprises out there.

“I’d say she’s a good execution of concept. We feel we could have done a little better.”


Tom Whidden, who has been Dennis Conner’s tactician in three Cup competitions, at first wasn’t keen on sailing on a catamaran.

“Being a monohull sailor, it’s like asking a drag racer if he’d be keen on racing in the Indianapolis 500,” Whidden said. “Since I’ve sailed on the catamarans, they’re very exhilarating and very fun, and match racing the two cats we have has been fantastic.”

Still, Conner didn’t include Whidden in his early crew plans.

“It wasn’t clear to us in the beginning whether we needed all catamaran sailors or some America’s Cup sailors or monohull sailors,” Whidden said.


“You know Dennis well enough. He surrounds himself with the smartest guys. Now he’s put a combination of guys together that know about tactics, navigation, America’s Cup sailing and catamarans. I’m thrilled to be involved.”

Because the Kiwis wouldn’t agree to sail a modern around-the-buoy course with three-mile legs, the conditions revert to the Deed of Gift.

That dictates a straight 40-mile windward-leeward course for the first race, a 39-mile triangle for the second, and the windward-leeward for a third race, if necessary.

That also puts unusual responsibility on the navigators, who normally would be able to see the orange, inflated turning marks.


This week they’ll rely on the Global Positioning System (GPS), which involves tracking one’s own position by eight satellites.

“It’s accurate to within 50 feet,” said Richard McCurdy, the Stars & Stripes computer analyst.

The only problem is that the system goes off at 6 p.m., and the races may last until later.

“Then,” McCurdy said, “they switch to Loran-C"--a less sophisticated system that will be good enough to lead them back.