It's old-school Melges vs. new-wave Cayard

May 11, 1992|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO -- The primary skippers of the defender and the challenger in the 28th America's Cup offer an interesting contrast in sailing skills and attitudes.

For starters, Buddy Melges, who does most of the sailing aboard the defender, America3, is 62; Il Moro skipper and project manager Paul Cayard is 32.

Melges has been from the old school, Cayard from the brave new world of sailing.

But the times have been changing for Melges. The cause of the change has been syndicate head Bill Koch's approach to the America's Cup.

The tenets are talent, teamwork and technology -- and Melges is getting a full dose of each.

"I think that the association with Bill Koch and his drive for physical fitness has certainly helped me," Melges said. "In the last month and a half, I have lost 16 pounds and increased my muscle content. I have a fat content -- I don't know if I should tell all my girlfriends this -- but it is down to about 11.5, which I think is pretty good for a guy my age."

In terms of technology, Melges says he goes with the flow because the data the scientists provide often takes several days to sink in.

In the sailing program, Melges is one of three skippers, each of whom sails a different part of the race: Dave Dellenbaugh handles the start and then switches to tactics, and Koch usually sails the three reaching legs, where straight-line boat-speed is the primary concern.

The balance of the race, the five legs where tactical sailing may be more important than boat speed, usually belongs to Melges.

"I am just a helmsman," says Melges, who through the years has won Olympic medals in the Flying Dutchman and Soling, placed first in the Maxi World Championships, won world championships in the Star, 5.5-meter and 50-footer classes and been Yachtsman of the Year three times.

Cayard, however, in addition to handling all the sailing for Il Moro also runs Raul Gardini's challenge syndicate.

At the post-race news conferences, Cayard usually is the spokesman for Il Moro; in the syndicate compound he is the boss; on the race course, he is emperor.

But years ago, he worshiped different royalty.

"When I was 18 years old and started crewing for [the late Tom] Blackaller," Cayard said, "Buddy, Blackaller, Dennis Conner and Bill Buchan were the kings of sailing . . . .

"Over the years I have grown up to be really a competitor of Buddy's, when I was originally just an observer from a crewing position."

At this point, Melges and Cayard rule the America's Cup.

"Sailing age has its advantages," Cayard said. "You have more experience and have seen more of the situations.

"But youth has its advantages, too, and like everything you have to find the right compromise between the two."

Cayard said he feels comfortable with his mix of youth and experience.

Cayard and Melges profess great respect for each other, but no one sails competitively -- for 30 years or for 15 -- without wanting to scuttle the opposition by whatever means possible.

At this point, after the closest race in America's Cup history, youth and experience are tied, 1-1.

* Today is a lay day. Racing is scheduled to be resumed tomorrow.

* Koch returned aboard America3 yesterday with a small lump on his head and no significant damage sustained from the knock he took in Race 1 from a backstay block.

Koch did relent on the second reaching leg and give the helm back to Melges for the rest of the race. Melges steadily made up ground, even though Il Moro's mainsail seemed much better suited to the light air.

Throughout the race, Il Moro seemed to sail flatter than America3, which used a heavier main.

* Maneuvering on the downwind legs contributed to America3's loss. On the first downwind leg, for example, there were four bad gybes by the defender.

On the last leg, even though they made up ground on Il Moro, it appeared that the halyard on the gennaker had to be loosen each time the U.S. team gybed.

* The challenger and defender switched sides of the starting area yesterday in Race 2, with America3 entering from port. For Race 3 tomorrow, America3 again will enter from starboard.

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