San Diego’s Peter Isler, the first American to declare an America’s Cup campaign 19 months ago, Wednesday was the first to drop out because of a lack of funds.
Isler had been one of only four syndicates approved as a realistic effort by the America’s Cup Organizing Committee several weeks ago, along with teams led by Dennis Conner and Larry Klein of San Diego and John Bertrand of Newport Beach.
The ACOC also set a deadline of Oct. 1 for the defense syndicates to show they had secured $6 million in sponsorship to keep their campaigns on schedule for the competition that will start in January, 1992.
Conner already has announced $6 million in sponsorship from Cadillac and Pepsi. Bertrand’s effort represents the Beach Boys singing group but has announced no sponsorship. Klein hasn’t announced any sponsorship, either, but spokesperson Barbara Wolf said Wednesday: “We should have a major announcement in two or three weeks.”
Isler had signed only one major sponsor: Hewlett-Packard. He said there was no point for him to wait until Oct. 1.
“Our standards were different from ACOC’s,” he said. “Oct. 1 didn’t have any magic for us. Even proving that you had $6 million committed by Oct. 1 wasn’t the end-all. It takes a lot more than than, and it takes some money now.”
Isler was Conner’s navigator when Conner won the America’s Cup back from Australia in ’87 and when he defended it against Michael Fay’s New Zealand effort aboard the controversial catamaran in ’88.
“Having been involved with two previous Cups, I know what it takes to win,” Isler said. “The cost of mounting a top-level campaign exceeds $20 million. All along we’ve been slowly chipping away at what our standards are, and the compromises kept going.”
Isler partly blamed that bitter 1988 defense and ongoing litigation between the U.S. and New Zealand interests for difficulty in obtaining sponsorship.
“Confusion created by the 1988 America’s Cup and the ensuing court battle resolved only four months ago precluded all of us from going to corporations with a specific proposal during a critical period when foreign teams were moving ahead and when U.S. corporations were in their budget process for their 1991 and ’92 commitments,” he said.
Naval architect Bruce Nelson had designed a boat for the new America’s Cup class for Isler, with construction scheduled to start in October until funding ran short. Isler said he’ll offer his research and development information to Partners for America’s Cup Technology (PACT), the mutual defense research group, and to the remaining syndicates “to see how these resources can help the U.S. defense effort.”
Isler said he wouldn’t want to become involved with another syndicate unless it had s strong chance to win. “I’ll be checking in with the other U.S. teams to see what they need and where they are,” he said. “The reason we pulled the plug on this one was that we had compromised the level we had set for ourselves, and those standards are still there.”
He is still planning to sail a match-race series against one of the two Soviet teams late this year.
Jerry Ladow, operations director for Conner’s syndicate, said: “Dennis has a lot of respect for Peter, but I don’t know what Dennis has in mind, and I don’t know what Peter wants to do.
“We’re sorry to see it happen, although it’s not totally unexpected. Corporate America is taking a hard look at all marketing.”
Conner was unavailable to comment.
Wolf, Klein’s spokesperson, said: “We were surprised (by Isler’s withdrawal). We’d heard he was having problems, but we didn’t think it had gone this far.”
Isler said he planned to continue campaigning on the world match-racing circuit, where he is ranked first among Americans, and also will assist his wife J.J.'s Olympic campaign.
J.J. Isler and crew Pam Healy last week were the top Americans, sixth among 66 entries, in the women’s 470 worlds.