If Conner had seen the tired, haunted look on Gilmour's young face immediately after the second race, he might have shuddered. It was the look of someone whose world is crashing around his ears but who is powerless to do anything about it. Conner, as the Aussies say, has "been there, done that." This time around the situation was different. "Our design group gave us a boat to work with that was up to the task," said Conner before the races. "And the crew has done a great job in taking that boat and sailing it around the course somewhere near its potential. That's why we're here."
Determining Stars & Stripes's potential occupied Conner's brain trust through much of the agonizingly long break between the final trials that ended on Jan. 19 and the first Cup race. While in public the Americans were saying, "It's probably going to be very close," and "We are guardedly optimistic," in private they were very, very confident.
The America's Cup, one must remember, is a little like an iceberg. What one sees—and hears—is not necessarily all there is. One reason for the general euphoria in the Conner camp was that Bruce Nelson, the third member of the boat's design team and S & S official observer at the pre-Cup measurement of Kooka III, took one look at the defender's bared underbody and recognized a variation on the winged-keel theme similar to a design the Stars & Stripes group had tested and rejected. Armed with this knowledge, John Marshall, who coordinated the design project, began to play computer games. "We made up a computer run based on what we think Kookaburra is, based on the data we've already explored," said Pedrick.
A mathematical model of Kooka III was put through her paces 120 times against data from Stars & Stripes's actual race performances. Factored in were permutations of wind and points of sail and sea conditions. The results were gratifying, and since then Marshall & Co. have been hard pressed at times not to break into song. "We feel comfortable as long as it doesn't blow 12," said Marshall before the races began.
But it blew 12—and less—on Saturday, and Stars & Stripes came through. A boat that is built to handle the Fremantle Doctor but can win in light air, too, deserves the America's Cup. And the skipper who lost the Cup in '83 because his boat was slow deserves a Stars & Stripes.