Cup doesn't fill San Diego with waves of treasure Organization turmoil cuts down on profits

May 14, 1992|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO -- On the Embarcadero, near the foot of Broadway, next to the cruise ship terminal, a gunsmoke blue racing yacht has been placed in a cradle along the waterfront.

The blue boat is Stars & Stripes, the 12-meter racer that native son Dennis Conner sailed in Australia when the United States and the San Diego Yacht Club won the America's Cup in 1987.

The deep-bellied racer with the bulbous winged keel is a monument, a reminder of what might have been the finest moment for this city's yachtsmen.

San Diego had the cup, and the sailing world could be expected to troop into Southern California and try to win it back. And they would, of course, bring their checkbooks with them.

But in the years since Conner regained the cup he had lost in 1983, not all the checks have been made of paper; the expected windfall has not been a bonanza.

At the center of the controversy is the America's Cup Organizing Committee and America's Cup Services, its for-profit marketing arm.

The ACOC has been on the verge of bankruptcy for some time and ACS has been sold to an Australian, Warren Pateman, who has since been arrested by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, charged with failing to secure a U.S. work permit and barred from day-to-day management of any U.S. company.

Along the distant waterfront, some spectator fleet operators are losing their shirts and saying that Pateman cut them out by bringing in Australian boats.

Many small fleets have operated at less than half capacity and on some days have not taken their boats out because ticket sales wouldn't cover costs.

By contrast, the San Diego Harbor Excursion Fleet, which leaves from under the shadow of the gunsmoke blue monument each racing day, has been operating at capacity since the cup series began on Saturday -- at $150 per person per day.

While the smaller spectator fleets have foundered, the souvenir and embroidery businesses have flourished. Everybody seems to want a $20 T-shirt or a $10 pin.

* Yesterday was a lay day for the cup racers. Racing resumes today at 12:30 p.m. The forecast is for winds of 10 to 15 knots from the northwest, which would favor Il Moro di Venezia in the upper ranges.

* America3 syndicate head Bill Koch has been finding out firsthand how tough it can be at the top.

Koch, at 6 feet 6 the tallest among the America3 sailing crew, has been hit in the head several times by loose rigging or the boom while at the wheel or in the after cockpit tending the running backstays.

"We don't do it for luck, but we did notice that early on in some of our series that whenever he did get conked on the head by the boom, we won the race," starting skipper and tactician Dave Dellenbaugh said. "So, when he complains about getting bonked, we do kid him that it is good luck."

Koch was conked again slightly on Tuesday during America3's 1-minute, 58-second win in Race 3.

The reason that Koch gets conked, Dellenbaugh said, is that the U.S. team has continued to put more aft rake in the mast.

"And the more rake we put in, the lower the boom goes," Dellenbaugh said. "So, Bill, being kind of tall, is in a tough spot."

* The Italians continue to work on their sails to try to get a boost in their boat speed.

America3, with more than 225 sails to choose from, has the edge here, including an extensive collection of state-of-the-art carbon-fiber mainsails and genoas.

The Italians are using the standard exotic, Kevlar.

America3 has made its sail panels from special fibers custom developed by Hercules Materials Co., a division of Hercules Inc., and the High Performance Fibers Division of Allied Signal Inc.

The special fibers are believed to be 30 percent higher in stiffness to weight ratio than anything the Italians can put together.

America3, of course, will say little else about their sail panels until after the cup has been completed.

* In Race 2 on Sunday, America3 had much trouble gybing downwind, and the last blown gybe of the day might have been the difference between winning and losing the closest race in America's Cup history.

In Race 3 on Tuesday, the downwind work on America3 was much improved after a lengthy practice session Monday.

The problem was that the sail, which must be shifted from side to side in front of the mast during each gybe, was catching on a jumper strut halfway up the mast.

With that problem sorted out, the headsails were filling with wind 13 seconds faster Tuesday than Sunday.

"But I still think the Italians were gybing better than we were," Dellenbaugh said after Race 3, which the U.S. boat won by nearly two minutes. "And that is why they gained some on the downwind leg."

Yesterday, America3 again spent the day working on downwind tactics.

* Il Moro skipper Paul Cayard was asked about research by Australian America's Cup skipper Peter Gilmour that showed the challengers would be five to six minutes faster around the 20.03-nautical-mile course than the defender in 9 knots of breeze and between three and four minutes faster in 12 to 14 knots.

"Now you know why Kookaburra lost 4-zip," was Cayard's response.

Kookaburra was the Australian defender that lost four straight to Stars & Stripes in Fremantle in 1987.

Cup at a glance

Standings

America3 .. .. .. .. .. .2

Il Moro di Venezia .. .. 1

Schedule

Today: Il Moro di Venezia vs. America3, 3:30 p.m.

Saturday: Il Moro di Venezia vs. America3, 3:30 p.m.

Sunday: Il Moro di Venezia vs. America3, 3:30 p.m., if necessary.

Tuesday: Il Moro di Venezia vs. America3, 3:30 p.m., if necessary.

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