A FORFEITED CUP
There's no arguing that the best-of-three America's Cup series between Michael Fay's challenger, New Zealand, a 133-foot monohull. and the San Diego Yacht Club's defender. Stars & Stripes, a 60-foot catamaran, last September was a mismatch. Skimming across the surface like a water bug. Stars & Stripes, skippered by Dennis Conner, trounced New Zealand in two straight races. The question before New York State Supreme Court Judge Carmen Ciparick last week was whether the San Diego Yacht Club, in responding to Fay's monohull challenge with a catamaran, had acted in accordance with the Cup's 102-year-old trust document, the Deed of Gift.
Ciparick ruled that the club had not. She declared that the use of a catamaran against a monohull violated the deed and ordered the San Diego Yacht Club to hand over the Cup to Fay, thereby dealing a blow to both the club and the city of San Diego, which had hoped to reap as much as $1.2 billion by hosting a 1991 Cup defense. "[The club] was well aware of the risk it ran when it chose to follow the unprecedented course of defending in a catamaran," wrote Ciparick in her decision. "Barely paying lip service to the significance of the competition, its clear goal was to retain the Cup at all costs so that it could host a competition on its own terms."
While Fay broke out champagne in Auckland, officials in San Diego seemed to be stunned. Claiming that Ciparick had changed her course from a literal reading of the deed to an interpretative one, Tom Mitchell, a race-management spokesman, said, "If we had known she would rule on fairness, we might not have sailed the catamaran. We didn't worry about spirit or intent; we worried about what the deed said. Now she says spirit was more important." The yacht club will appeal Ciparick's decision.
In truth, the judge gave equal weight to the wording of the deed and the intent of its author, and San Diego lost on both counts. While Fay must bear some of the blame for the mess the 1988 America's Cup became—he opened the can of worms by challenging San Diego in a boat different from the 12-meter yachts used in Cup races since 1958—it was San Diego's decision to abandon fair competition that created the mismatch and tarnished the reputation of the world's oldest sporting trophy. Mitchell's words revealed more than he probably intended about the spirit in which San Diego approached last year's races: If we had known she would rule on fairness, we might not have sailed the catamaran.
The judge reminded both sides that the defender of the Cup "is bound to a higher obligation than the victor of the Stanley Cup or the Super Bowl." That obligation, simply put, is to play fair. Now as the defender, Fay must keep the playing field level for the next challenger. To say he will be watched closely is an understatement.
Western Carolina relieved Bob Waters of his football coaching duties last week and reassigned him to the newly created position of associate athletic director. Waters, 50, whose 116-94-6 record over 20 seasons makes him the Catamounts' winningest coach, was diagnosed four years ago as suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, a paralyzing and usually fatal neuromuscular disorder (SI, Aug. 24, 1987). Waters vowed to beat the affliction, but even as his resolve held strong, his health declined. Last season he had to coach from a wheelchair, using a portable respirator to help him breathe and a microphone to amplify his whisper of a voice.
Waters was in the middle of spring practice when university chancellor Myron Coulter informed him by letter of his reassignment. Coulter said Waters was no longer providing the team with "the necessary level of leadership and instruction" and noted that last year, when Western Carolina fell to 2-9, the Catamounts didn't play "good, tough, hard-nosed football." Waters argued that he was fully capable of continuing as coach for at least one more season, but the university's board of trustees supported Coulter's decision.
Even if Western Carolina wins a few more games this fall, its football program won't be the same without Waters's courage and inspiration. "Bob is a fighter, and one of the reasons he has fought to stay alive is to be coach of this football team," says his wife, Sheri. "Now he has to find another reason to fight for his life."