The three remaining America’s Cup defense syndicates have been reduced to two: Team Dennis Conner and America-3, headed by Eastern industrialist Bill Koch.
At a press conference Friday in San Diego, an announcement that Koch will absorb certain personnel from the Beach Boys USA syndicate, which is strapped for funds, is expected.
“We’re not dropping out,” said David Lowry, chairman of the Beach Boys syndicate. “Nothing could be farther from the truth. (But) there will be some changes. Some exciting things are happening. You can call things mergers (or) combining of efforts. What you’re going to see is a stronger American effort.”
The syndicate had a promotional tie-in with the veteran singing group, which apparently failed to attract sufficient corporate sponsorship for a campaign that was projected to cost $15 million or more.
A spokesman for America-3 said, “It won’t be a merger, but there are some parts of (the Beach Boys’) operation that are attractive to us.”
However, the future involvement of Beach Boys skipper John Bertrand is uncertain. America-3 already has qualified helmsmen with Koch, Gary Jobson and Buddy Melges.
Two other U.S. efforts led by San Diego’s Peter Isler and Larry Klein also have vanished from the roster of four originally approved by the America’s Cup Organizing Committee before Koch became involved. Isler folded and Klein’s Triumph America group joined Koch’s new syndicate. Klein later was fired although his chief designer, Heiner Meldner, remained.
The Beach Boys initially purchased the new French International America’s Cup Class boat for training, then agreed to sell a half-interest to Koch for a cooperative effort. However, sources said, the Beach Boys lacked the funds to pay for their half, so it became Koch’s boat.
The boat Monday became the first of the new 75-foot America’s Cup boats to sail on San Diego Bay, with Lowry and members of Koch’s crew on board. Koch and Jobson will be aboard Saturday to start formal training.
Conner’s first boat, being built in Newport, R.I., is scheduled to arrive in March and compete in the IACC world championships in May. The Cup competition starts in January 1992.
Said Jerry Ladow, an executive with Conner’s syndicate, “We’re very disappointed--if that’s what comes out of the (press conference Friday).”
Said Tom Ehman, executive vice president of the ACOC, “There will be some positive announcements for the defense . . . a strengthening of the defense.”
Ehman said the ACOC would permit both Conner and Koch to enter more than one boat in the defense trials to assure enough competition to prepare for the challenger, who must survive a field of 12 syndicates from 10 countries.
One challenger--Spain--last weekend lost the 14-ton bulb from the bottom of its keel while sailing off Palma. The keel was retrieved from a depth of 15 meters, and the boat was not seriously damaged.