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On a steaming Saturday early this month in Newport, a 12-meter yacht was launched in the usual fashion. Champagne bubbled, speakers babbled, bunting billowed and firecrackers baboomed in the midday sun. A pretty lady in a garden-party hat cracked a bottle over the bow, and the red-white-and-blue covering that had hidden the yacht's hull fell away to reveal—Courageous.
Our old friend from four America's Cup campaigns, henceforth to be known as Courageous II, was back to try again, this time with wings on her keel. "Vortex Wings," says Leonard M. Greene, her current owner, an aeronautical engineer who holds a fortune in aviation-related patents, "with the emphasis on wings."
"When we lost the Cup," Greene told a crowd of 1,000 sweating well-wishers, "we lost it to a boat that measured 12 meters but had 12�-meter performance. The way to get the Cup back is with a boat that measures 12 meters and has 13-meter performance. Courageous II accomplishes this with its innovative Vortex Wings."
Or hopes to. The Vortex Wings design is a sophisticated variation on the Aussie winged-keel concept, extending farther along the long axis of the keel than the Down Under version. It's also "the first design to be developed using flow-theory formulas and computer-aided design prior to lofting the keel," according to Greene, whose prose has a pretty good flow and loft of its own. In charge of translating Courageous II's potential on Greene's computers into performance on Australia's waters in 1987 is Leatham (Tim) Stearn, a 36-year-old ocean racer-engineer-sailmaker and 1972 Star Class Olympian from Sturgeon Bay, Wis. When a reporter asked Stearn how he, an "unknown," dared to take on John Kolius and Dennis Conner, heroes of the losing struggle in 1983 and helmsmen-designate for the 1987 challenges of the New York (Kolius) and San Diego (Conner) yacht clubs, Stearn replied, "Until two years ago, unless you followed sailing very closely, you never heard of John Kolius. The same could be said of Dennis Conner six years ago." An America's Cup skipper spends a good deal of time answering questions from reporters. Stearn, it seems, has passed the novice stage.
The only real novice in the Courageous II challenge is its sponsor, the Yale Corinthian Yacht Club of New Haven, Conn., an undergraduate organization of waterborne Yalies. At Newport, the Boston Brass Ensemble played Down the Field, the Old Blues in the audience cheered and, as it always does on such occasions, optimism won the day. The club's commodore, Tim Misner, a 21-year-old senior who looks 13, interrupted a summer of boardsailing just long enough to don his commodore's blazer and address the question of how he, "just a math major," became an official challenger for the world's most famous trophy. "It was a match made in New Haven," he said.
ONE WAY TO WIN AN ELECTION
A year ago the Winnipeg Sun printed ballots and asked its readers to vote on whether or not the city should build a new arena downtown to house the NHL Jets. A proposal to include such an arena in a new redevelopment plan had been made. Some influential citizens were strongly for the idea, others were just as strongly opposed. The antis argued that it was a wasteful proposal, pointing out that the arena in which the Jets play had been renovated only four years earlier.
The results of the poll were 280 to 150 in favor, and despite the rather modest number of voters, the Sun ran a headline proclaiming: WINNIPEG WANTS A DOWNTOWN ARENA. The authorities, however, choosing to ignore the poll, rejected the proposal.
Now comes a rival newspaper, the Winnipeg Free Press, to disclose that the vote was rigged. When the ballots appeared in the Sun, employees of the Jets were sent out to buy 200 copies of the paper (five here, five there, spreading the purchases around to avoid attracting attention). Others went to a nearby mall and bought envelopes in various shapes and sizes, postage stamps of different designs and denominations and a variety of colored marking pens. Staff members then filled in the ballots (voting a straight party ticket, of course), addressed and stamped the envelopes and took them home to neighborhood boxes to mail so that the ballots would appear to be coming from various parts of the city. "We had a little production line," admitted one employee.
Barry Shenkarow, the president of the Jets, who was in favor of a new arena, has denied knowing anything about the ballot-box stuffing, but Jackie Mihalyk, a former employee who was the Jets' sales director at the time, said bluntly, "Yes, it happened." Don Ramsay, a former Jet publicity man, was somewhat more circumspect. "I have no interest in the inner workings of the Winnipeg Jets," he said stiffly, "but if you're asking me point-blank, I can't deny it happened."