Not that the Australians wasted much time bemoaning their loss. A cartoon in the Sydney-based newspaper The Australian depicted Bertrand adrift at sea, addressing his shell-shocked crew as a huge wave is about to crash down on their heads: "We're not beaten yet."
That's classic Bertrand, who trailed Dennis Conner 3-1 in '83 before storming back to become the first, and only, non-U.S. sailor to win the America's Cup. He was plotting ways to make the old oneAustralia faster almost before the new one had settled on the bottom. After forfeiting one race to refit the older boat, Bertrand's crew won the next two races, clinching the second seed in the semifinal round, which is scheduled to begin on Saturday. The Aussie crew members clearly didn't lose their sense of humor. For their first start after the sinking, they donned life jackets—unheard of in America's Cup racing.
Still, moxie can take a team only so far, and Team New Zealand will be a formidable obstacle for oneAustralia—or anybody else—to get past. "It's worrisome to see a team with that sort of dominance in a fleet," says John Marshall, head of PACT 95, whose Young America is the surprise leader of the defense syndicates.
"They have a good basic design," says Conner, referring to the sleek, dart-shaped hull of Team New Zealand's Black Magic 2. "They have the best sails. The crew is very strong. Russell Coutts is a consistently good match racer. And their leader, Peter Blake, is experienced. He knows how to run a team. They're just solid, like the San Francisco 49ers."
Indeed, the 47-year-old Blake's track record in sailing is, in its own way, as impressive as Conner's. Blake won every leg of the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989-90. In 1994 he knocked four days off the record for sailing around the world, accomplishing the feat in 74 days, 22 hours, 17 minutes and 22 seconds in his 92-foot catamaran, ENZA New Zealand. He's currently the International Yacht Racing Union's sailor of the year and has received the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II for his sailing accomplishments. All that remains for him to win is an America's Cup.
"Peter Blake's had his stamp on this effort right from the start," says Coutts, 34, the world's second-ranked match racer, who replaced Rod Davis as the starting helmsman on the Kiwi boat in 1992. Davis is now Bertrand's helmsman, and Coutts has the wheel of Black Magic 2 to himself.
Team New Zealand is taking all the praise the defenders are showering on it with a grain of salt, remembering that in 1987 the Kiwis ran roughshod over the competition, winning 35 of 36 races going into the challenger finals before Conner's Stars & Stripes blew their boat away. "The defenders are great at playing themselves down, and the opposition up," Coutts says. "We're not listening to their bull. The real racing's still ahead."
Nearly everyone agrees with that assessment. After six America's Cup campaigns, four of them victorious, Conner should know about these things, and he says that everything that has happened up till now has been a glorified exhibition season. The real games herewith begin.
That's good news to the women of America³, who were just 5-16 through the first four rounds of the defender trials and 2-3 after the introduction of their new boat, Mighty Mary, which to date has been a much-ballyhooed dud. (One of those wins came after Stars & Stripes had posted a DNF because of difficulties with its mainsail.) No matter. All you really need to know to get caught up on the defenders is that after two months of racing in the shifting, sometimes nonexistent breezes off San Diego, Young America has a slight edge on Stars & Stripes and Mighty Mary. The 12-race round-robin semifinal series, which will reduce the defender field to two, amounts to a fresh start.
This much is clear, though. PACT 95 and its one-boat Young America campaign have fared remarkably well, especially considering that the Maine-based syndicate has the smallest budget of the U.S. teams: $16.5 million, compared with $20 million for Team Dennis Conner and America³. In helmsman Kevin Mahaney, a 32-year-old former Division III All-America lacrosse goalie at Middlebury who didn't sail in his first regatta until he was 19, PACT 95 has the youngest skipper. It also appears to have the fastest boat, assuming Young America's hull, which was damaged on Sunday when the boat was being towed out to sea for a practice session, can be repaired. Young America's long, sleek hull thrives in the rough water and light breezes off Point Loma and reminds many people of Black Magic 2. "Mahaney's boat looks pretty similar to ours," agrees Coutts. Downwind it has been especially quick compared with Conner's Stars & Stripes .