However, if the court decides that San Diego must meet Fay in a monohull, and Sail America exhausts all avenues of legal appeal with no change in that decision, then Sail America will have to produce a big monohull. That means writing off the $3 million or so it has already spent on catamarans and raising that much more for a race it is by no means assured of winning.
Another scenario would be for Sail America and the SDYC to dissolve their contract. If that were to happen, the SDYC might accept one of the offers it has had from others to build and race a defender in its behalf, presuming those offers still hold. Or SDYC might snag a knight-errant, someone like California's wealthy maxi-yachtsman, Jim Kilroy, and ask him to organize a defense. Or, should time allow, the club could start again on its own. The complicating factor is that the leading figures in Sail America, Conner and money man Mal-in Burnham, are also influential members of the SDYC.
For some in the club, being rid of Sail America would be a relief, but they are an intimidated minority. Those members have thought from the beginning that Fay's challenge, however unwelcome, should have been dealt with in the spirit of sport rather than interpreted as a sneak attack comparable to Pearl Harbor, an act of treachery to be avenged at any cost. On the eve of last week's christening, one of the minority members said, "The yacht club and the Cup itself have really been hurt in this business, the club more than the Cup, I think. But the Cup's reputation is easier to salvage. Once it does get back on track and the races start, it's forgotten. But gee, the club has just taken a hell of a pasting. I think that's going to take a long time to heal, and that's a damn shame."
The one unutterable word in San Diego is "forfeit." Lawyers, with nothing personal at stake, may throw it around the courtroom, but for a sailor or a yacht club, the notion of entering the history books as the first to forfeit the America's Cup is a fate too horrible to contemplate. Even Fay, angry and frustrated as he is, wants no part of forcing a forfeit. If anything can persuade the principals in this dispute to stop being "bloody-minded" and "pigheaded"—Kiwi and American words for the same thing—the prospect of a forfeit can. A "mutual consent" clause in the Deed allows the challenger and defender complete freedom to make any arrangements they choose. Poor George Schuyler. The 19th-century yachtsman who wrote the Deed probably thought that clause provided all the leeway civilized sailors would ever need to reach an understanding. The America's Cup has proved him wrong time and again.
The grunts in both camps keep working night and day, as if a September match were a real possibility. At the Stars & Stripes dock the other day, Bill Trenkle, a long-time Conner crewman, led visitors on a walking tour around H-1, which was lying on her side in a specially designed hydraulic cradle. Her twin blue hulls are 60 feet long and are separated by 30 feet. To get from one hull to the other when the boat tacks, the sailors bound across a trampoline made of white nylon webbing. Conner bounds with the best of them, especially now that he has shed at least 40 pounds, reportedly in response to an offer by the Nutri/System, Inc. weight-loss program to contribute to Sail America one pound of carbon fibre, at $1,000 per pound, for every pound Conner loses.
The wing sail on H-1 was designed with the help of Burt Rutan, who also designed Voyager, the lightweight aircraft that made the first nonstop, non refueled round-the-world flight, in December 1986. The sail is 23 feet at its base and tapers to 4 feet at the top, 90 feet above the water. The mast has three vertical elements, one of which looks a bit like Venetian blinds, and all of which can be manipulated independently of one another. Sail America won't say, but H-Icould reach speeds of 30 knots or more. The only situation in which Conner's cats are vulnerable is in wind conditions of less than five knots. In those conditions they will barely move. But neither will a 123-foot monohull.
The Stars & Stripes yard is small—the cats don't take up much room. It is bordered by grassy parkland and shade trees. By contrast, the Kiwi compound, half a dozen docks away on San Diego Port District land, is surrounded by acres of gray sheds and working vessels of every description. Like the boat itself, everything about the New Zealand yard is huge. It includes a 12,000-square-foot sail loft, and, to lift New Zealand out of the water each night, a crane that required 13 trucks to transport it in pieces to the compound.
But nothing in the yard is as mind-boggling as New Zealand herself, or "Kiwi Mischief as she was nicknamed in a radio phone-in vote in Auckland last March (the runner-up was "Faytal Attraction"). The spreaders, those projections attached at intervals to the mast for holding the shrouds taut, are the size of old-fashioned surfboards. The numbers on the sails are five feet high. When the boat is out of the water, it rests on a cradle on the deck of a 250-foot barge. A 39-foot steel staircase is needed just to climb from the deck of the barge onto the deck of the yacht. New Zealand's mast is so high, 17 stories, that when a crewman is raised to its top by a rope, his chair has to be secured by an additional line, in part to be certain that the much greater descending weight of some 400 feet of rope doesn't send him soaring off into the Southern California sky.
Everybody wants to see the Kiwi boat these days, and the sailor-hosts are friendly and obliging. The best show in town is a Kiwi tack, when all 40 crew members high-step it through tangled lines scattered over 1,800 square feet of deck (about the size of a modest three-bedroom house). The crew is divided into three teams: the Speed Team of five (once called the Afterguard); the Thrust Team (10 to 15 people who trim, grind and hoist the sails); and the Rail Team (15 to 25 ballast bodies, who, because of the reverse camber of the boat's cantilevered sides, must run downward from one rail and then up again to the other every time the boat tacks).
"I don't care what your politics are on this whole America's Cup thing," says Rod Davis, the New Zealand sailing coach, "you have to admit this is much more fun than sailing 12-meters. Besides, you can get more of your buddies on board this way."