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In the wake of a brilliant and provocative America's Cup season have come some startling public developments and private discussions. There is one big piece of good news, one of bad news. The good news is that no fewer than four foreign countries—Australia, France, Britain and Canada—have challenged for 1973, the year of the next defense. If there are no dropouts this means that there will be racing of a magnitude scarcely even dreamed of until now. The bad news is that the New York Yacht Club, patron of the cup, has among its most influential members a number of men who would like to retire the old mug. They would not attempt to do so until after the 1973 defense, of course, but they are serious.
There are several reasons for this mood of withdrawal. One is that the club shrinks from sensation and notoriety. The public may have relished the uproar over the collision of Australia's Gretel II and our defender, Intrepid, in the second race of the 1970 defense, but the club did not. (As one consequence, all protests made during the 1973 defense will be ruled on by a jury drawn from neutral members of the International Yacht Racing Union.)
Second, cup defenses absorb a lot of time and money—the latter nondeductible. Too much time and too much money, say some club members.
Finally, the club is extremely uneasy about the actual conduct of the races off Newport, R.I. It worries especially about the growing spectator fleet—the possibility of collisions and drownings, and the problem of fog.
But if there are doubts in New York, there is a fever of anticipation elsewhere. From Australia and France there are multiple challenges. Again, given no dropouts, this means that Contender A and Contender B in each of these countries must have a shoot-out at home, for it can be said with certainty that the New York Yacht Club will invite no more than one 12-meter per country to final eliminations at Newport.
Of the four contending countries the winter-book favorite is Australia. Challenges have been made by both the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron in the east and the Royal Perth Yacht Club in the west. Sydney means Sir Frank Packer and the Gretels, and probably a new sloop from the board of Alan Payne, the quiet craftsman who closed the technological gap on the U.S. in 1970. There may also be a new boat from a syndicate headed by Sydney Publisher Norman Rydge, who is believed to have been maneuvered out of a 1970 challenge by Sir Frank.
From Australia's west comes a 33-year-old millionaire and fledgling sailor named Alan Bond. Newport caught a glimpse of Bond last summer at the start of the Bermuda race. He appeared with a new 58-foot sloop called Apollo, and at the line he came on like Captain Cook: a cocked hat on his head, a sea cloak draped over his pudgy frame, a sword at his waist. The job of designing a Twelve for Bond probably will go to Bob Miller, the mind behind Apollo.
For the supreme individualist, however, one must turn to France and Baron Marcel Bich. He is coming back, challenging through the Sailing Circle of Paris. And he'll be back sooner than you think. After his France lost to Gretel last summer he stored her at Newport along with his trial horses, Chancegger and Constellation, and he will man them for crew training next summer.
There is a good chance that a second French contender will be launched, this one by the Marseille Yacht Club with Xavier de Roux as syndicate leader. He heads both the Marseille club and the French Yacht Federation and has enlisted such prestigious men as Dr. Joseph Comiti, France's Secretary of State for Youth and Sport, and Gaston Defferre, the mayor of Marseille. There will be no single overlord, � la Bich; instead, a democratic alliance of "modern industrial managers."
For the first time in this century another North American country may be represented, Canada, for Vancouver Businessman George W. O'Brien has assembled a 25-man syndicate. He figures a bankroll of $1.5 million should cover expenses, and he is no stranger to Twelves, being the present owner of Australia's 1967 challenger, Dame Pattie, now called Endless Summer. O'Brien is expected to have the Canadian sloop designed and built by the Vancouver firm of Cove Hatfield and Company Ltd.