Jobson in new syndicate that will try to out-sail Conner in 1992 Cup trials


October 14, 1990|By Peter Baker

Gary Jobson sits in the stern lounge aboard the Lady Anna the Mount Gay Rum VIP boat at the Cadillac Columbus Cup regatta. Earlier in the week, a writer had characterized Jobson as gray-haired and prosperous, and Jobson, a television commentator, an author of sailing books, lecturer, entrepreneur and sailboat racer, is disputing the characterization.

"Gray-haired? Do you see any gray hair here?" Jobson asks of the small gathering. "Prosperous? Do I look prosperous? Gray-haired and prosperous?"

Well, graying, and yes, prosperous.

BTC The years and sailing have been good to Jobson. Recent developments in the America's Cup scene apparently will make sailing even better for Jobson, who is perhaps the best known of a slew of excellent Annapolis sailors.

Earlier this month, William Koch, a wealthy businessman and yachtsman from Palm Beach, Fla., formed a new defense syndicate for the America's Cup. In the process, he combined the expertise of Jobson and world-class sailors Buddy Melges and Larry Klein, and the technological and logistical resources that made Matador 2 the hottest design on the maxiboat circuit.

The name of the group is America 3 and it encompasses Melges' Cleveland-based Yankee Syndicate and Klein's San Diego group, Triumph America.

For the past decade, a San Diego sailor, Dennis Conner, has been what most people think of when asked about the America's Cup. After all, Conner had won the Cup, lost it, won it back in Australia and then outwitted New Zealand to retain it. Through it all, corporate America and its millions of dollars in contributions seemed to be in Conner's hip pocket.

Jobson, Koch, Melges and Klein have hopes of knocking the foundation from beneath the house that Conner built.

"Just beating Dennis Conner would be good enough," Jobson was saying. "But beating him in his home waters off San Diego would be greater still."

None among America 3 is likely to say that beating Conner will be easy once defender trials begin in January 1992, but it appears that a proper framework has been laid.

"The race for the America's Cup has several stages," Jobson said. "The first is a race for funding. The second is a search for talent, and the third is the formation of a good management plan. After that is done, only then do we go sailing."

Funding seems to present no problem for America 3 because Koch, president and founder of the billion-dollar Oxbow Corporation, has arranged for the $15 million to $25 million needed to finance the campaign.

Talent, it seems, also should not be a problem. Jobson and Melges have considerable America's Cup experience, and Klein is hailed as a rising star. Koch, in his own right, has an enviable record in maxiboat racing.

Management of the sailing program is where Jobson comes in -- as co-skipper with Koch and vice president.

"We'll have at least two boats to train in," Jobson says, "and among us more than two skippers good enough to press the others. We will find the crews and among them there probably will be more than a few who are even better than we are."

But what of egos? What will the chemistry be when four successful skippers are vying for one eventual position at the helm?

"Bill [Koch] wants the opportunity to steer the boat, as we all do," Jobson says. "So does Buddy [Melges] and so does Larry [Klein]. So do I.

"But at this point, each says they are willing to take another job on the boat for the betterment of the team. If anyone becomes a problem, though, the bottom line is that if ego gets in the way, you're gone."

The crucial element in all this is Matador 2, the 85-foot maxiboat that took four years and several million dollars to develop. In its maiden regatta, the maxi world championship series sailed recently in Newport, R.I., Matador 2 won five of seven races.

Matador 2 is said to be a breakthrough design, much as Australia II was in the 1983 America's Cup, the series Conner lost to Alan Bond and the late Ben Lexcen's winged keel.

But is the technology used to make Matador 2 a world beater transferable to the new America's Cup class 75-footer that will be sailed in 1992?

"Yes," Jobson says. "Based on the work done so far, which, believe it or not, has been going on since August, the technology is compatible. The same things that work for Matador will work for the new cup boats."

Reportedly, Matador is 25 to 30 percent heavier than other maxiboats and has a deep thin keel with a lead bulb at the bottom.

Because of the success of Matador 2, Koch said, other U.S. syndicates have approached him to enlist his funding and his technology. It was the interest of these other syndicates that led him to believe perhaps he had an edge -- and if he had an edge, why not keep it and go for the cup himself?

Well, to the tune of $15 million to $25 million and the beating of his own drum, Koch has.

With a little help from his friends, he might just get by.

"I have heard all the talk about the U.S. being far behind the countries that are mounting challenges for the cup," Jobson says. "Based on what we know, we are not that far behind. Besides, aside from Italy, New Zealand and Japan, how many of those challengers are really going to show up on the starting line?"

The same question might be asked of the American defense syndicates. Will the Beach Boys group raise the $20 million necessary to campaign? Can Conner again pick the pockets of corporate America to the tune of $20 million or $30 million?

"I don't think the Beach Boys are going to make it," Jobson says. "Dennis will be there. He has the track record, he has the contacts.

"America 3 will be there, and we all hope that the competition is, let's say, interesting."

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