THE AMERICA’S CUP : Americans’ Experience Should Help

To get a bearing on each crew in today’s America’s Cup race, watch the eyes.

When the boats pass, only the tactician, and maybe the helmsman, should be looking at the other boat. If the other crew members are sneaking peeks, chances are they are nervous. Such crews often lose.

Chances are the seasoned Americans on Stars & Stripes will be going about their work with hardly a glance at the Kiwis.

“I would say we are quietly confident,” said Carl Buchan, Olympic gold medalist and the mainsail traveler operator. “Everybody is saying we are the favorite. But there has never been a race like this, so who really knows?”

” I wish we would just start the racing,” said Cam Lewis, who will be working with Buchan to trim the “airplane wing” sail on the catamaran.

If the winds are 5-7 knots, two persons could be dropped from the nine-member crew. If the winds are above 16 knots, the crew could number 10 or 11. John Barnitt, 27, is the youngest crew member; Dennis Conner, 45, the oldest.

A look at the Americans, with some insights provided by Lewis, one of the premier catamaran sailors in the world:


Dennis Conner, 45, San Diego: Steers the boat, determines start tactics. Will be competing in his fifth Cup, fourth as skipper. “I would not say Dennis and some of the other guys here are the best catamaran sailors in the world, because they haven’t sailed in all types of conditions in the boat, but he has picked it up very quickly,” Lewis said.


Tom Whidden, 40, Essex, Conn.: Advises Conner on race tactics, monitors progress of other boats, provides information on wind and water conditions, assists navigator and advises rest of crew on tactics. Was tactician for Stars & Stripes in 1986-87. This is his fourth Cup campaign. “There will be a constant dialogue between Dennis and Tom,” Lewis said.


Peter Isler, 33, San Diego: “He makes sure we don’t get lost,” Lewis said. Will be using readings from either a Global Placement System or a Loran radio-frequency system. He and Whidden also adjust the centerboards during the race, and Isler helps trim jib sheets and other sails. Was navigator on Stars & Stripes in 1986-87.


Cam Lewis, 31, Newport, R.I.: “Carl (Buchan) will be easing out the mainsheet, I will be pulling it in, grinding the winch,” Lewis said in reference to the angling and shaping of the hard-sail wing. Lewis, who is competing in his first Cup, and Buchan will aim to keep one hull inches above the water. Lewis likely has most physically exhausting job on boat.


Carl Buchan, 31, Seattle: He “tails the mainsheet,” or helps Lewis adjust the angle of the hard-sail wing. Won the Flying Dutchman race at 1984 Olympics.


Bill Trenkle, 30, Garden City, N.Y.: Hoists and trims the jib and reachers, coordinates all headsail trimming, ensures smooth operation of front of boat. Was port tailer on Stars & Stripes in 1987. Placed first at 1987 world maxi championship and first at multihull grand prix. Was involved in 1980 Enterprise and 1983 Liberty and Freedom defense campaigns.


First race

Duncan MacLane, 37, Rowayton, Conn.: Co-designed the “airplane wing” sail. “His job is to make sure we don’t break it and fix it if we do,” Lewis said. Has won the the C Class world championships once and the Little America’s Cup five times.

Second race

Louis Banks, 45, Rowayton, Conn.: Veteran sailor who has focused on catamaran sailing since 1961. He has won several national championships, dating to the 1962 Aquacat Nationals.


First race

John Barnitt, 27, Fridley, Minn.: Will trim the jib and hoist sails. “John has a very good sense of humor, and he is very strong,” Lewis said. Barnitt, who is dyslexic, handled the color-coded sails as mastman aboard the 1987 Stars & Stripes.

Second race

John Grant, 45, Red Bank, N.J.: Teammates call him “Rambo.” A former Marine lieutenant colonel who was an alternate grinder on Stars & Stripes last year and has won the Rolex Cup and the Yachting Cup.


First race

John Wake, 36, Detroit: Will help MacLane control twist on hard-sail wing. “John is good for morale, and he can solve any problem,” Lewis said. Captured the Newport-Ensenada regatta for multihulls in 1983 and 1985.

Second race

Randy Smyth, 34, Huntington Beach: Has been Sailing World’s multihull sailor of the year since 1980. Won silver medal in the Tornado class at the 1984 Olympics.