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Unfair? "Hey, it's yacht racing," said Stalkus. "The idea is to beat the other boat." Even with the gang-up tactics, though, Matador� had three wins in both Miami and St. Thomas.
Despite Matador�'s victory in the worlds, some were critical of the boat's handling and felt she could have performed even better. "If you put Dennis Conner or a crew like Passage's on Matador�, she would be unstoppable," said one member of a rival afterguard. "The boat is not being sailed as well as she should be."
While Matador� and Passage were busy slam-dunking each other, John Bertrand, driving Longobarda, slipped by to win the St. Thomas regatta and spoil Matador�'s chance to sweep the three events. Bertrand sailed a consistently brilliant series. Except for some bad luck during the Newport regatta—a ripped mainsail forced Longobarda out of one race, a dismasting finished her in another—the boat never finished worse than third. Bertrand won three races and placed second nine times.
Conversely, Conner was consistently lackluster aboard Emeraude, finishing ahead of only perpetual caboose Congere. Despite that minor embarrassment, Congere's owner, Beven Koeppel, had much to be thankful for. In 1990 in a race from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro, his previous maxi, also named Congere, had run aground during the night off the coast of Brazil. All 30 crew members were forced to swim ashore and the yacht broke up in the surf. The crew was picked up the next day.
If the world championship was a sneak preview of the '92 America's Cup, we can expect a knock-down, drag-out match in San Diego between Koch's America� and Raul Gardini's Il Moro di Venezia (The Moor of Venice, i.e., Othello). Gardini, 57, also owns Passage.
Gardini's racing record and his business r�sum� make it clear that he's not a man to be trifled with. His industrial-chemical conglomerate, Montedison, had $13.5 billion in sales in 1989 and employs more than 50,000 people worldwide. In Italy last year, Montedison ranked second only to Fiat in sales. Gardini is also the head of the holding company Ferruzzi Finanziaria, which owns Montedison and had a gross income of $30 billion in 1989.
As a sailor, Gardini has spent a lifetime on the water, campaigning a succession of maxis, all named Il Moro di Venezia (Passage to Venice was originally an Australian boat named Windward Passage; Gardini bought it and changed the name to combine something old and something new). Il Moro III, now renamed Vanitas, won the 1988 world championship.
If Gardini had been counseling a young Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, his advice would have been "carbon fiber," not "plastics." Gardini is betting heavily that the miracle synthetic—stronger than steel and a fraction the weight—will soon be used in everything from commercial aircraft fuselages to picnic tables. He has commissioned an experimental 180-foot carbon-fiber cruising ketch, 48 feet longer than Michael Fay's America's Cup challenger New Zealand; when it's completed, in 1992, Gardini's will be the largest carbon-fiber boat ever built. Clearly maxi boats, and now the America's Cup, are only a small part of Gardini's much larger carbon-fiber business strategy.
"We were all very sad to lose the world championship," said Gabriele Rafanelli, Gardini's general for sailing affairs, "but this regatta was used by us as a training ground for the America's Cup. Now we've seen that we can compete with anybody. We are tough. We may not look it. We are Italians. We laugh, we joke. But we will be in San Diego to win the America's Cup. And Mr. Gardini is a very determined person."
So, too, is Matador�'s Mr. Koch.