Soling mates know it takes more than cash Annapolis' Brady, team need tactics, too

July 29, 1992|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

BARCELONA, Spain -- The Prince of Bourbon is at the helm of the Spanish yacht. Mercedes-Benz sponsors the Germans. The Bank of Montreal pays the freight for the Canadians.

You've got big boats and even bigger bucks bobbing around the harbor adjacent to the athletes' village at the 1992 Summer Olympics.

And, then, you've got the Americans. Team Exxon. The best crew and best soling class campaign that money can buy.

They have spent four years and $450,000 preparing to win the gold medal. They have traveled to more than 30 countries. They have hired coaches and officials, even purchased a second boat to use in European competitions.

"We have spent more on this campaign than any country here," said Jim Brady, the bowman from Annapolis who, along with his two teammates, won his first race yesterday. "But money alone won't win you a gold. In the America's Cup, the Cup in many cases goes to the highest bidder. But in the Olympics, you can't buy better technology or a better boat. Everyone has an equal opportunity to win."

The teams race in identical 27-foot, three-man keel boats. Tactics, not technology, are what divide winners from losers.

Skipper Kevin Mahaney of Bangor, Maine, launched the campaign right after the 1988 Olympic trials, rustling up a crew that included Brady and Doug Kern of Austin, Texas.

"I wanted to do it the right way," Mahaney said. "I didn't want to cut any corners. But no one is getting rich off this. I will be paying a lot for this campaign. It took me eight years of planning and racing to get here."

Mahaney is a marketing man and a family man who will go home to his wife and two children after the Games.

But, by almost any standard, Brady is a professional sailor. He fell in love with boats as a 13-year-old and worked on a soling class campaigning for the 1980 Games. He had a two-year stint sailing and sometimes attending classes at the University of Charleston, and then just decided to hit the racing circuit.

Brady works as a salesman for North Sails Chesapeake in Annapolis, but he still finds time to compete 30 weeks a year. It doesn't hurt business to push a product when your resume includes the 1990 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Award and world championships in the J-24 and J-22 classes.

"People said, 'Jim, you ought to go out and get a degree,' " he said. "I was pushed hard to follow the route that general society would take. But I didn't. Things have turned out OK. I always figured if I couldn't make a good living and I struggled, I could always go back to college and get in the business world."

Actually, he is in the middle of the business world, only he's also out to sea. Schmoozing with corporate types and sailing for medals is the way of the sport in the 1990s.

The men of Team Exxon aren't getting rich off their venture. They're each trying to make ends meet on a $1,500-a-month stipends from the U.S. Olympic Committee.

The Americans cut their deal with Exxon in February 1991. They added 15 other sponsors. Normally, they sail with corporate logos plastered all over their equipment. But here, they are strictly Team USA.

"They're trying to give the Olympics a nice clean, advertising-free look," Brady said.

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