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Canals of Venice Flow With Gold for U.S. Skipper : Sailing: Italian industrialist gives San Francisco’s Cayard $40 million to pursue his America’s Cup dream.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Paul Cayard is a San Francisco sailor whose ambition was to grow up and win the America’s Cup, but not necessarily for Italy.

To see Cayard’s name among the challengers will be one of the anomalies at San Diego in 1992, along with New Zealand’s Chris Dickson sailing for Japan and San Diego’s Rod Davis possibly competing for New Zealand.

Only two years ago Cayard came close to fulfilling another of his ambitions--to sail for the United States in the Olympics--but finished second in the trials for the Star class, and the next thing anybody knew he had defected to Venice. Or so it seemed.

Cayard, 31, is the skipper and managing director of the Il Moro di Venezia syndicate and the envy of nearly every other sailor in the world.

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To sailors, nationality counts less than opportunity, and the high-stakes America’s Cup game offers limited opportunities because of the costs involved.

Campaigns for ’92 will cost a minimum of $15 million. So when Italian industrialist Raul Gardini offered Cayard the chance to put his bid together, at a salary reported to be $500,000 a year, Cayard had no trouble convincing his conscience it was the right thing to do.

“The world is a much smaller place now,” Cayard said by phone recently. “Nationalism doesn’t mean as much.”

Italy, recent host of the World Cup, offers some examples.

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“The soccer teams all have players from other countries,” Cayard said. “We’ve had Danny Ferry and Brian Shaw playing basketball over here.”

And soon, former Laker Michael Cooper.

“I had the opportunity to put together my team and my program and try to win the America’s Cup,” Cayard said. “I hope that maybe someday I could have another opportunity to do it my way--in the United States.”

That isn’t likely soon. Even Dennis Conner has to hustle for money from corporate America. Others struggle.

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“When you’ve got the trophy that’s the pinnacle of the sport and you can’t generate much interest in your own country--there’s your patriotism,” Cayard said.

At this point, the Il Moro di Venezia campaign is budgeted at about $40 million. But whatever Cayard needs, Cayard gets.

The name translates to “The Moor of Venice,” alluding to a medieval hero idolized by Gardini. Gardini presides over the Ferruzzi worldwide group of 500 chemical and pharmaceutical plants that recorded sales of $30 billion in 1988. Presumably, they haven’t finished counting ’89.

Cayard insists there is a budget--"It’s very hard to run a program without the guidelines of a budget,” he says--but the only limit might be the supply of blank checks Gardini has on hand.

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At Fremantle, Western Australia, in ’86-87, when Cayard was tactician for the late Tom Blackaller aboard the fast but underfunded USA from St. Francis Yacht Club, Italy sent two other syndicates after the America’s Cup.

They had plenty of money, too. They had the best facilities, threw the best parties and their crews wore the best clothes--foul weather gear by Gucci.

But their boats sailed like slugs, and one day they couldn’t even find the starting line.

“It’s hard to say exactly what went wrong down there,” Cayard said. “We have our own way of doing things here.”

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American know-how, Gardini decided, was the missing link. Cayard already had picked up a little Italian by sailing Gardini’s maxi-boat Il Moro since ’85, and has almost fulfilled the two-year residence required of sailors who switch countries in the America’s Cup.

The Italians have had one America’s Cup-class boat in the water for five months and launched their second in July, about the time Conner started building the first for any American.

They also are the first challenger to secure a shore facility at San Diego and will move into Gerry Driscoll’s boatyard on Shelter Island early in January.

The 21 challengers must post a $150,000 performance bond by Sept. 3, an obligation expected to reduce the field, but merely a problem of petty cash for Cayard.

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The Italians seem to be leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else, except perhaps Dickson’s Nippon Challenge, but there was a disquieting experience recently.

It was reported that in trials against Marc Pajot’s French boat, Cayard’s Il Moro I--with a golden lion painted on its hull--lost three consecutive races.

That reminded Cup historians of Davis’ comment when he first looked upon the magnificent bird embracing the gray hull of Eagle, the Newport Harbor Yacht Club’s entry at Fremantle.

“It had better be fast,” Davis said.

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It wasn’t.

The Italians’ New York-based publicity people insist the report from France was wrong, but could not say what really happened because of an agreement between the teams, and that Il Moro I was not meant to be fast, anyway. It’s only a development boat, to be used as a benchmark for its successors.

To that end, Cayard also has brought aboard two other Americans: Robert Hopkins as design technology coordinator and Adam Ostenfeld to oversee the sailing systems--deck hardware, electronics, etc. Both were with Conner in the successful Sail America program at Fremantle.

“The responsibility is much more than I ever imagined,” Cayard said. “The job is more demanding. I can see now that Blackaller was under more pressure than I realized, (although) he had different kinds of things to deal with.

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“We didn’t have our own design team--we contracted it out--but what he had was the nightmare of fund-raising, which was a constant thing. He’d have to be at the beck and call of every guy who had a dollar to give him.

“My load’s different. We have a bigger team, more press. The press is very different here, too. Very aggressive. They jump on any little rumor and blow it up. That’s kind of a pain in itself.”


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