SAN DIEGO -- Kevin Mahaney and his PACT '95 defense syndicate got a late jump on final preparations for America's Cup's elimination series here. Rainy weather and fluke winds slowed crew training. A tornado knocked the group's new boat out of its cradle 12 days ago, damaging it heavily, destroying its high-tech sails and forcing the group to work around the clock to make repairs.
Yet neither wind, nor rain, nor dark of night nor extensive breakage yesterday could keep Young America from winning its first match of the America's Cup defender trials.
In winds ranging from 12 to 15 knots and gusting to 20, Young America and America3, the all-women's defense group, sailed a furious race across the 8-foot swells of the Pacific Ocean off Point Loma.
"It was an exciting day," Mahaney said after the race, "although it was an expensive one."
On the way out of Mission Bay, and after grounding while launching the boat at low tide, Young America lost the electronic wind instruments at the top of its mast -- and items great and small continued to break throughout the race.
"It looked like we had been through a tornado out there on the course," Mahaney said, "and the crew did a wonderful job keeping her going."
After PACT '95 won the start by 3 seconds, America3, with Leslie Egnot again at the helm, worked up the left side of the course while Young America sailed to the right side. At the first mark, America3 had built a lead of 23 seconds.
"They ate us alive in the tacking duels," said Mahaney, adding that breakage on Young America continued on the first leg.
The satellite navigational system went out, two winches broke, the head of the jib began to work out of the slotted head foil -- and then the boats entered the second leg.
On the first leg downwind, Young America blew out a spinnaker and cut it away, leaving a sail worth tens of thousands of dollars in the ocean until a chase boat could recover it.
While Young America struggled, America3, sailing a boat built for the 1992 America's Cup, increased its advantage to 39 seconds by the end of the second leg and to 46 seconds by the end of the third.
But on the second downwind leg, Mahaney and Young America began to gain.
"What got us back in the race," said Mahaney, "was boat placement on the course, and all Ken Read [strategist] and John Kostecki [tactician] had to work with at that point was a compass. All the electronics were gone."
Under the guidance of Read and Kostecki, both world champions in classes of smaller boats, Young America cut 24 seconds from America3's lead and passed them on the last windward leg after America3 was called for a tacking foul.
As America3 sailed through its 270 degree penalty turn, PACT '95 widened its lead.
"The judges made a nice call on that," said Courtenay Becker-Dey, a member of the America3 afterguard. "But even so, on the last leg we thought we could come back and pass them."
By the time it turned down the last leeward leg to the finish, Young America had a lead of 1 minute, 21 seconds. And, in spite of some bad gybes on the last leg, still won by 37 seconds.
"What was frustrating about today is that [the breakage] was not a design issue," Mahaney said. "It is a matter of getting the boat broken in, which usually is a three to four week process."
Given the adversity Mahaney and company overcame yesterday, it may be that Young America -- the new International America's Cup Class racer with a golden-haired mermaid painted the full length of its hull -- is more than just another pretty face.
In today's races, PACT '95 is matched against Team Dennis Conner.
AMERICA'S CUP SUMMARY
Yesterday's conditions at the start were westerly at 12 to 15 knots. Swells were 8 feet, seas were 3 feet.
America3 (1-1) vs. PACT '95 (0-0)
Start:.... PACT '95 .... +00:03 ... 1st leg ... America3 ... +00:23
2nd leg:.. America3 ..... 00:39 ... 3rd leg ... America3 ... +00:46
4th leg:.. America3 .... +00:22 ... 5th leg ... PACT '95 ... +00:59
6th leg:.. PACT '95 .... +00:37 ... Time ...... America3 .. 2:14:35
Today's race: PACT '95 vs. Team Dennis Conner.
Yesterday's results: Race 1 -- Win New Zealand (1-0) def. Nippon (1-1). Race 2 -- Team New Zealand (2-0) def. France (0-2), 2:40. Race 3 -- Sydney 95 (2-0) def. Spain (0-2), 3:43.
Today's races: Race 1 -- Sydney '95 vs. oneAustralia. Race 2 -- Win New Zealand vs. Team New Zealand. Race 3 -- France vs. Japan.