Il Moro Fools Him Once, But He Still Won't Believe

Oops!

Arrivederci, Venezia?

Did I say that? No kidding. I didn't know arrivederci meant goodby.

Latin has given me problems since I advised my eighth-grade teacher that Julius Caesar told Brutus that he et tu eggs for breakfast.

This isn't Latin?

OK, so I slipped on a kiwi peel and ended up with my face in fettuccine.

Il Moro di Venezia lives.

America 3 lives.

Dennis Conner doesn't.

Michael Fay doesn't.

All of this happened while I was on an annual sojourn to the hinterlands that takes me away from the real world, if, indeed, anything involving America's Cup relates to the real world.

The Great Rematch will have to wait until Fay goes back to his glove compartment in New Zealand and fetches another $50 million or so and Conner goes back to Corporate America and convinces the collective board rooms that you can't win the Indianapolis 500 in the Studebaker.

Meanwhile, what we have is what we have.

Koch 3 vs. Il Moro di Cayard.

No way Paul Cayard, Italy's most expensive import, could have gotten past New Zealand and Sir Michael. It didn't look as if Il Moro could win unless Vesuvius erupted in the Kiwi compound.

Not the way that challenger series was going. The Kiwis were up 4-1 and ready to drink a high tide of Steinlager. They never got a taste of the stuff.

Mt. Cayard erupted. Cayard made such a fuss about the Kiwis' cute little bowsprit that poor New Zealand lost that fourth victory. It was not forfeited to Italy, but that made no difference. Cayard had the Kiwis so discombobulated (that means confused in English, Sir Michael) that they did not know a bowsprit from aft.

Having already been bid arrivederci, Il Moro never again lost.

I assumed all along that Stars & Stripes would defeat Bill Koch's A3 armada, simply because Conner would find a way. He had done that all along. He had come from a 3-zip deficit to a 4-4 tie.

And then Stars & Stripes never again won.

That gets us through the finish of 3 1/2 months of racing, which gets us to the beginning of the racing that really counts.

In one corner, we have America 3, the boat that defeated the world's greatest sailor.

In the other, we have Paul Cayard, the sailor who defeated what was quite likely the fastest boat in the competition.

So what we can conclude here is that America 3 must be an awfully fast boat to beat Dennis Conner and Cayard must be an awfully fine sailor to beat New Zealand.

What we cannot safely conclude is exactly which of these surviving entries will win America's Cup.

This competition is probably more comparable to a World Series than other such familiar events as the Super Bowl or NBA finals or even a heavyweight championship fight. They have not faced each other, nor have they faced common opponents.

They go into this cold.

Atlanta vs. Minnesota, if you will.

The old saw is that anything can happen in a seven-game series, and that might apply here.

And might not.

One of these boats might be so advanced in a technological sense that it can only lose if its crew loses. Given a superior boat and smooth crew work and one of these boats could sweep through this thing about as quickly as a Padre starting pitcher gets to the shower.

Do either of these boats fit such a dominant profile?

One is white, America 3, and the other is red, Il Moro, but the key color is green. The syndicate chiefs, Koch with A3 and Raul Gardini with Il Moro, have poured and continue to pour fortunes into this quest. Between them, they have invested far in excess of $100 million in a Cup you probably wouldn't let in the house if it wasn't labeled.

Both of these boats have undoubtedly made major adjustments in the last week in quest of a little more speed, which is all it would take to make a difference in the outcome. The gamble, of course, is that adjustments can also inadvertently cost speed.

An Il Moro fan, for example, sent Gardini and Co. a cartoon of the New Zealand yacht, complete with bowsprit, growing smaller and smaller until it turns into, of all things, a kiwi bird. It says: "He who lives by the beak dies by the beak."

Clever, and true. Cayard's constant chirping about that beak of a bowsprit undoubtedly sank New Zealand.

So now we get down to a culmination of all these seagoing shenanigans.

The fastest boat will win because its crew has been good enough to get it here, even if the owner does insist on driving once in awhile.

Mi dispiace, Venezia.

Arrivederci . . . again.

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