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The America’ Cup : Name-Calling, Mud-Slinging Provide Lowlights

Special to The Times

And then one spring Sunday came the chance to try it out. Half of New Zealand, it seemed, turned out for the launching ceremonies. It was a combination of a national holiday, the opening day of the circus and the annual blessing of the fleet. --Peter Janssen’s description of the launching of New Zealand

Maybe Peter Janssen, a writer for Motor Boat and Sailing magazine, did not mean to use the word circus. Good word, though.

It is a matter of debate as to when America’s Cup XXVII deteriorated from sporting event to farcical event.

Yet, if even a farcical play can reach a denouement, this was it.

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Pamela Whitner, 29, who was dressed as a clown, dropped a jockstrap onto Dennis Conner’s lap. Right in the middle of a press conference Friday night, hours after Conner and Co. had won the Cup in a rout.

Conner laughed. Then he tilted his head and rolled his eyes, as if to say, “How appropriate.”

The following was inscribed on the jockstrap: “Get in the race, be an America’s Cup Supporter.”

This Cup moment will be remembered. In fact, this press conference topped Wednesday’s, in which the Kiwis said the Americans sandbagged, and the Americans called the Kiwi boat a “dog.”

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Thursday, things calmed. The lone salvo came from Bruce Farr, designer of the 133-foot New Zealand, who called the American catamaran a “chicken.”

No references to various animal species were made Friday.

Instead, other nouns were employed. For example, Farr called Stars & Stripes designer John Marshall a liar.

Not much prompted such a nasty remark. Just your basic broadside to a person’s livelihood.

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On the other hand, Marshall, tactician Tom Whidden and Conner think Farr’s boat to be sub-par.

The trio suggested that Farr’s boat would not be a match for Los Angeles yachtsman Jim Kilroy’s 66-foot maxi boat.

Conner then cut off the blustering Farr.

Afterward, Farr and Whidden squared off. Farr wanted an apology.

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Whidden mentioned something about the regrettability of his teammates’ “innuendos.”

Whidden did not apologize but held out his hand. Farr stared at the hand. Then he shook it weakly.

At which time Michael Fay, chairman of the New Zealand Challenge, bustled over.

“For a while, I thought they (Stars & Stripes) were going to be above-board,” Fay said. “Then they said, ‘Let’s jump back down in the mudhole.’ I haven’t done the same, but . . . “

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Now we hear from the clown.

“I’m a clown by profession, have been for 10 years,” said Whitner. “I pay housecalls--to children. Aren’t these people children? It’s a childish event.

Conner said he was relieved the race was over. So did Carl Buchan, the mainsail traveler operator for the Americans. Grinder John (Rambo) Grant, though, called the victory a happy conclusion that was a product of hard work.

As for the Kiwis, they repeated what they said Wednesday. That is, that they sailed the 133-foot monohull to its potential but that they really had no chance against the catamaran.

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“Well, this Cup was like a Clayton’s,” said Tom Schnackenberg, the Kiwi veteran of four Cup campaigns.

A Clayton’s?

“Yes, that’s a drink that is like a cocktail but is nonalcoholic. Doesn’t have any kick. This was equal to a non-event.”


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