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AMERICA’S CUP NOTEBOOK / RICH ROBERTS : Three Campaigns Run on Grit and Resolve

Bruno Trouble, spokesman for the Louis Vuitton luggage company sponsoring the challenger trials, saw the wooden Slovenian boat at Marco Cantoni’s boatyard in Venice recently.

He described it as, well, unusual, and not only because it’s made out of mahogany.

The ongoing misadventures of the Slovenian and the two Russian teams invite inspiration for a “National Lampoon Goes to the America’s Cup” movie.

But the last thing they need is ridicule. While their countries are in upheaval, these three efforts reflect a gutsy determination to join the world community and celebrate their freedom.

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Whether they ever sail, their persistence against overwhelming odds renders insignificant the struggles of some other syndicates.

Other challengers are offering assistance in various ways. Too bad the Port Security Committee can’t get into the spirit by dropping its silly ban against Russian boats in San Diego Bay.

The U.S. audience might not yet be tuned in to the dry wit of Spirit of Australia’s Iain Murray. There was hardly a reaction when, discussing his tight funding at an America’s Cup breakfast, he said:

“We haven’t the benefit of people like Alan Bond, who have moved their sporting scene to places like Club Fed.”

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Bond, the bankrupt ex-billionaire who won the Cup in 1983, is under indictment for securities fraud.

In 1986-87, Murray sailed Kevin Parry’s Kookaburra boat that beat Bond’s Australia IV in the defender finals, then lost to Dennis Conner, 4-0.

Parry, whose financial adventures rivaled those of Bond, also has fallen on hard times.

Malin Burnham is another old Cup warrior, surviving under siege as president of the America’s Cup Organizing Committee.

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As such, Burnham is disassociated from Conner--officially--since the ACOC’s purpose is to stage the defense for the San Diego Yacht Club without favoritism to Conner over Bill Koch, the other defender. The odds of San Diego keeping the Cup, Burnham said, are “at least 5 to 2 against us. There are at least five strong teams (among) the challengers.”

Presumably, he meant Il Moro di Venezia, New Zealand, Le Defi Francais, Nippon Challenge and . . . Spain? One of the two Australian efforts?

Sweden? Russia? Slovenia?

Is Burnham a diplomat or what?

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As the media trickles into town over several months starting in January, Rod Davis and the rest of the New Zealand Challenge are going to get mighty weary of people asking about an American being skipper of the Kiwi boat.

Davis, a dual citizen, has been accepted by the Kiwis as one of their own. His commitment to his adopted homeland is underscored by the fact that he also will sail a Star boat for New Zealand in the 1992 Olympics at Barcelona.

Stan Reid, chairman of the Challenger of Record Committee, says it’s not even a big deal that other syndicates, most notably Il Moro with American Paul Cayard and Nippon with New Zealand’s Chris Dickson, have foreigners in key roles. Multinational teams are almost as old as the Cup, Reid says, extending back to the last century.

“Talk about ‘hired guns’ is quite inappropriate and should cease,” Reid says.

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End of discussion, over and out.

Scotty McAlister, an Australian working as operations manager for the Swedish syndicate, has been living in that country as long as Davis has lived in New Zealand--since 1987.

McAlister is remembered as the crewman on Australia II who broke his arm and was unable to sail when the Aussies won the Cup from Conner in 1983.

Absolut Sweden remains high and dry in the Hyatt Islandia parking lot until the base camp there is ready, but, as a resident Swede, McAlister didn’t appreciate it when Conner appropriated Sweden’s flag for his cheeky dalliance with the challengers.

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“A bit of a backhander,” McAlister said. “He’s got nobody to train with, so he has to butt in on other people’s sailing. He’s an expert at diluting other people’s efforts.

“I couldn’t even imagine us doing that in 1983. They would have run us out of Newport (R.I.). But we’ll just let that one slide and get on with what we need to do.”


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