SAILING / RICH ROBERTS : America Keeps Wallets Closed

Last week’s developments in the America’s Cup: The keel fell off the Spanish boat; the wheels fell off the Beach Boys’ syndicate.

Neither event was surprising, although the failure of Beach Boys USA to gather corporate sponsorship with its wholesome and marketable image shows just how difficult it is for Americans to get money to go sailing.

Bill Koch’s America-3 outfit, which needs no sponsorship, will take on some people from the Beach Boys team, including designers Doug Peterson, John Reichel and Jim Pugh, if only to keep them out of rival Dennis Conner’s camp. Earlier, Koch gobbled up Larry Klein’s Triumph America, kept his designer, Heiner Meldner, and then fired Klein.

Spain will recover from the bulb falling off the keel of its new America’s Cup boat, Espana 92-Quinto Centenario, during testing at Majorca. Getting over the embarrassment may take a little longer. Technical director Diego Colon y Carvajal referred to “cruel commentaries in the media.”


But their rivals know better than to laugh. Their turns are coming. Because light means fast, the 75-foot boats are being built so close to structural margins that something is bound to break. It’s part of the testing process. If nothing is breaking, they’re too beefy and slow. Koch envisioned that masts will be falling like pine trees off San Diego until the designers get it right.

“It may have been a blessing,” San Diego’s Peter Isler said of the Spanish mishap. “Now they know how far they can go.”

The new International America’s Cup Class boats are built of fiber-reinforced composites. Aluminum is out. Even the fin part of the keel is carbon fiber, with a lead bulb attached to the bottom, where the placement of weight is most efficient. When 22 stainless steel screws let go, the Spaniards’ 14-ton bulb went to the bottom.

Isler, who abandoned his own effort late last year, is now a Cup spectator, along with Klein and John Bertrand, who was to skipper the Beach Boys’ boat. Two other top American sailors, Paul Cayard and Rod Davis, apparently were smart in jumping early to foreign syndicates--Italy and New Zealand, respectively.


Isler will be part of ESPN’s television coverage, at least for the first monthly show scheduled for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The one-hour program will include an interview with Conner and a sail around the new, eight-legged course on one of the new boats, with Isler alongside in an old 12-meter for comparison. Isler also will help with his wife J.J.'s Olympic 470 dinghy campaign, with Pam Healy.

Pete Melvin and Steve Rosenberg of Long Beach, sailing “Freedom’s Wing” for the Chula Vista Yacht Club, opened a best-of-seven final against the Australian defenders at McCrae, Australia, Saturday for the Little America’s Cup--officially, the International Catamaran Challenge Trophy.

The Americans won the semifinals by default last month when the radical French boat broke apart and could not be repaired. The Australians damaged one of their three boats beyond repair in practice.

Melvin and Rosenberg have been trying to get a line on how fast they are relative to the defenders, but the Australians have avoided them on the water, and the Americans’ persistent shadowing has created some tension, according to a report.

The new philosophy of sailing technology--if it doesn’t break, it’s too big--is an old story for C Class catamarans. Those are the flimsy 25-foot craft that compete for the International Catamaran Challenge Trophy. The last few challenges have been sunk by boats breaking apart. The Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club’s “Wingmill” effort by San Pedro’s Dair brothers in ’89 and the French boat this time were radical designs that hadn’t been thoroughly tested and failed in their first races.

Similarly, the Chula Vista YC bid with Melvin and Rosenberg broke down in spectator boat chop in the first race against the Australian defenders Saturday, but not so bad that it couldn’t be fixed.

The second race in the best-of-seven series is scheduled Tuesday.

Sailing notes


WOMEN--The second Women’s Sailing Convention is scheduled Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Cabrillo Beach YC in San Pedro. Southern California Yachting Assn. organizers led by Gail Hine were overwhelmed last year when more than 200 showed up for a day of on-the-water sailing instruction and seminars followed by a dinner. Speakers scheduled this year include Olympic hopeful Pease Glaser, Pacific cruiser Louanne Peck and sailing photographer Geri Conser. Registration is $35. Details: (213) 809-1187.

OFFSHORE--The Del Rey Yacht Club’s race to Puerto Vallarta starting Feb. 1 has 24 entries, including 11 ULDB 70s, or sleds. . . . There are six American entries among 32 from 17 countries filed for the fifth Whitbread Round-the-World race in 1993-94. The Whitbread has never had an American competitor. There were two U.S. hopefuls in ’89-90, but neither was able to get enough sponsorship to race. The U.S. entries include Ocean Racing Group led by Whitbread veterans (on foreign boats) Bill Biewenga of Newport, R.I, and John Jourdane of Long Beach. Jourdane was electronics technician on runner-up Fisher & Paykel of New Zealand last year. Other entries include Ted Allison of Seattle, Nance Frank’s U.S. Women’s Challenge, Richard O’Neill, Rae Glasgow and Gerald Bagwell.

The 60-foot trimaran Grand American, sailed by Richard Wilson and crewman Steve Pettengill in an attempt to break the San Francisco-to-Boston record held by the clipper ship Northern Light, was capsized, dismasted and abandoned in 50-foot seas and 70-knot winds 300 miles west of Tierra del Fuego approaching Cape Horn. Wilson and Pettengill were rescued by a container ship. When it was known as Great American, GeorgsKolesnikovs and Pettengill sailed the craft to a New York-to-San Francisco record in ’89.

OLYMPICS--The Olympic Yachting Committee has nominated the Soling team of Kevin Mahaney, Doug Kern and Jim Brady and boardsailor Wendy Thomson as U.S. Olympic Committee male and female athletes of the year. . . . Those interested in Olympic boardsailing may write to the U.S. Olympic Lechner Class, 806 Holly Drive E, Annapolis, Md., 21401.