Match-racing lessons is more like it. Stars & Stripes's first win, on April 23, came after America� took a three boat-length lead and then failed to cover Conner midway up the first mark, allowing Stars & Stripes to capitalize on a wind shift. "Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered," Koch said afterward. "We got greedy trying to stretch our lead."
Win No. 2 for Conner, last Saturday, was set up when he engaged Melges in an inspired luffing duel at the top of the first mark, breaking off at the perfect moment to take a four boat-length lead that he never relinquished. Stars & Stripes got its third win on Sunday, and it came as a result of Conner's aggressive prestart maneuvering. He pinned Dellenbaugh outside the starting area, thereby forcing America� to jibe too close to Stars & Stripes in a desperate attempt to escape. America� drew a foul. The 270-degree penalty turn the judges assessed her gave Conner a six boat-length cushion that he opened to 10 by the end.
"My attitude hasn't changed," said Koch, who seems to revel in his underdog role. "We still need to win three more races and have an uphill battle. But I don't think anyone who's been watching would bet on Stars & Stripes against America� in a drag race."
But sailing in the fickle zephyrs off Point Loma is a far cry from drag racing, and anyone who knows Conner would be loath to wager against him just because he's at the helm of a slower boat. "We'd rather face Koch, obviously, because of his lack of experience," says one member of the New Zealand camp. "Love him or hate him, you never feel comfortable with Dennis on the other side of the fence."
Back at you, Kiwi crusader. Ever since New Zealand became the first challenging syndicate to set up operations in San Diego, in December 1990, the Kiwis have behaved like men on a quest for the Holy Grail. Fay keeps referring to this America's Cup campaign as "unfinished business," and he takes tremendous pride in knowing that when it comes to sailing, his country of 3.4 million people can compete with the industrial giants of Japan, France, Italy and the U.S. " New Zealand has more boats per capita than any country in the world," says Fay. "The whole country stops to watch the America's Cup. It's not like the team feels a burden of fulfilling national expectations. But wouldn't it be great if kiwis could fly?"
The kiwi, of course, is New Zealand's national bird, a chicken-sized creature with a very long beak that is quite flightless. If Fay really wanted to see the kiwi take off, all he would have to do is stick one on board his sleek, red, sledlike yacht New Zealand, the radically designed creation that almost certainly is the fastest boat in San Diego. Among its unique features: an open cockpit, saving weight. A narrow bow and flattish hull, enabling it to surf downwind. It is steered by some sort of top-secret tandem keel that enables the boat to sail closer to the wind than its competitors. And it has a vertical, foreshortened bow and an accursed 39-inch bowsprit.
The bowsprit—the spearlike appendage extending off the front of the boat—is what caused all the controversy last week, and promises to do so again. Paul Cayard, Il Moro di Venezia's San Francisco-born skipper, who lives in Venice, had been complaining for weeks about the Kiwis' use of the bowsprit, but he didn't file an official protest with the Louis Vuitton jury until last Saturday, when his boat was beaten for the fourth time in five races and was, seemingly, one loss from elimination. Bowsprits are legal in America's Cup yachts. However, cutting through (he John Paul Jones jargon, there is a rule that states, circuitously, that a bowsprit cannot be used to control the headsail in any way. That is what Cayard accused the crew of New Zealand of doing. Day after day. Race after race. The jury, after a heated two-hour meeting on Saturday night, agreed that for a period of eight seconds in the fifth race, New Zealand had, in fact, misused its bowsprit. The jury took away the Kiwi's fourth win and ordered the race to be resailed on Sunday. The jury didn't give the win to the Italians because, it reasoned, the misuse of the bowsprit had in no way affected the outcome of the race.
It was the first annulment in the 141-year history of the America's Cup and a ruling that infuriated both Italy and New Zealand. "If one yacht violates the rules, the other yacht is usually awarded the race," said Cayard. "The decision is defective. Do you have to be just a little within the rules or totally within the rules? To me the whole thing is a joke."
Not so to Raul Gardini, the industrialist who, with the help of his former company, Montedison, has bankrolled the Italian effort. At an extraordinarily acrimonious Sunday-morning press conference, Gardini accused the New Zealanders of unsportsmanlike behavior and then threatened to pick up his ball and go home with it. "There have been five races," Gardini said through a translator. "I consider all five races to have been raced in an illegal manner by New Zealand. I consider the Louis Vuitton Cup over and Il Moro to be the winner."
Fay, steam virtually spouting from his ears, scolded Gardini and Cayard for criticizing the five-man international jury and concluded, "My suggestion is to get back on the water and see if you can win the next race."