America’s Cup Is Back in Court, Months After San Diego Mismatch

Three months after the America’s Cup fiasco in San Diego, the other shoe dropped in New York last week. All the briefs and motions had been filed, hopes to settle amicably were dismissed, and the lawyers were aligned in orderly rows, like the crew riding the weather rail of the big New Zealand monohull.

The Cup is back in court as Michael Fay seeks to overturn September’s lopsided losses to the Stars & Stripes catamaran, which he says is illegal.

The matter is once again before the New York Supreme Court and the same weary judge, Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick. There will be no more hearings, no trial--just her decision, which probably won’t be announced soon.

Fay won’t be waiting around for the verdict. After spending the spring and summer in San Diego for sailing and the fall in Greenwich, Conn., for legal matters, he and his family are heading back to Auckland for Christmas.


The competition was stacked so heavily in Stars & Stripes’ favor that afterward, the event was more noted for the whining of the losers and the boorish behavior of the winners--notably Dennis Conner and design chief John Marshall.

A lot of people said that Conner’s conduct hadn’t surprised them--he also had shown his meaner side at Fremantle--but that they had thought Marshall had more class.

Fay restrained himself, but the bitter episode quietly hardened his resolve to win in court. His campaign became a crusade.

Although his original maverick challenge was upheld in court, Fay does not come through with completely clean hands. He tried to take a shortcut to the Cup by bypassing recent traditions and ruling bodies.


If he was thoroughly and rudely rebuffed, Conner and Sail America were only protecting their turf with all the resources at their disposal.

An odd sidelight to the ongoing legal wrangle is that the America’s Cup community otherwise is cruising along as if nothing else is happening.

An international panel of designers, which will meet again in San Diego next week, is working on a new America’s Cup class of boat that would put the sluggish old 12-meters out of business.

The craft would be about 73 feet overall and 57 feet at the waterline, with maximums of an 18-foot beam, 13-foot draft and 3,000 square feet of sail and a minimum displacement of 36,000 pounds--half again the sail area of a 12 but no more than two-thirds the displacement.


By comparison, 12-meters have been up to 65 feet overall, and New Zealand’s boat was 123, plus its bowsprit.

Sail America likes the new class, but one of its designers, Britt Chance, doesn’t think it goes nearly far enough.

“We compete on paper before we compete on the water,” Chance said from his boat yard in Connecticut. “This last competition was the ultimate.

“New Zealand looked at a blank sheet of paper and saw a big monohull. We looked at a blank sheet of paper and saw a big catamaran. I wish there would be a competition that would permit that freedom.”


In other words, sail whatever you can build?

“I’m a student of the history of the America’s Cup and I’m also an engineer,” Chance said. “They have a special way of thinking. The basis of the America’s Cup was supposed to an unlimited contest of design and technology. That was the intention of the donors.

“Fay’s challenge was ill-conceived, (but) this last America’s Cup will be looked at as a very important time in the history of yachting. We would not have had the new class without Fay’s challenge. The time had come for change.”

Meanwhile, for a 1991 defense, the San Diego Yacht Club has received a record 25 challenges from 11 countries by the November deadline, including 4 from the Soviet Union and a late entry from Scotland.


New Zealand was not among the 25, and Sail America officially is noncommittal as to whether the Kiwis would be allowed to file a late entry, should they lose their case. But refusing them would hardly further the cause of restoring harmony to the Cup.

And if the Kiwis win their case?

"(Ciparick) will either order a rematch (between New Zealand and San Diego in similar boats) or a forfeiture of the Cup,” Sail America chief Tom Ehman said.

In the event of a forfeit, Fay has indicated that he would defend at Auckland, starting in February, 1991, with all challenges transferred to his Mercury Bay Boating Club.


Sailing Notes

LITTLE AMERICA’S CUP--Just when you thought you’d seen the last of catamarans with airfoil-wing sails, here comes the International Catamaran Challenge Trophy. San Pedro’s Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club will meet Australia’s McCrae YC in a best-of-7 series for the trophy--also known as the Little America’s Cup--at Melbourne Jan. 21-30. The boat will be sailed by brothers Steve and Bryan Dair of San Pedro. The 25-foot, wing-sail Class C cats, which have been around for about 10 years, inspired the Stars & Stripes boat that clobbered New Zealand’s monohull. But this one is unique. The 30-foot asymmetrical airfoil, attached to a pivot in the center, flips end over end to tack or jibe--change course upwind or downwind. James Ross, an aerodynamicist at the Ames Laboratory in Sunnyvale, Calif. designed it from a concept suggested by Lee Griswold, Charles Manning and James Hansen. The wing was built at Task Research in Santa Paula. The United States first won the event in 1976 with sailors Alex Kozloff and Robert Harvey representing CBYC and held it until 1985 when Australia took it Down Under.

NOTEWORTHY--The San Diego YC has been given the St. Petersburg Yacht Club trophy for excellence in race management for its conduct of the U.S. Olympic Soling and Star trials last July. The award is voted by participating skippers. Race chairman Terry Harper also is a member of the 1989-92 U.S. Olympic Yachting Committee, along with chairman Mike Schoettle of Rolling Hills, ’88 bronze medalist John Shadden of Long Beach, silver medalist Bob Billing-ham of Menlo Park and ’84 gold medalist Robbie Haines of Newport Beach.

Randy Smyth of Huntington Beach and his Formula 40 Super Lube crew will try to complete a sweep of the 3-event Salem ProSail Series for catamarans at Miami Beach this weekend. First prize is $20,000, plus $25,000 to the series winner. Smyth won the first 2 events at Newport, R.I., and San Francisco, and leads with 82 points, followed by Scott Allan, Ken Read and Andrew Nyhart in a tie at 76.