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Will Koch's technological heft give him a head start in the America's Cup? Not necessarily. Unlike maxi-boat sailing, the America's Cup has no ratings handicaps. The first boat over the line wins. "I think that it's mostly a mathematical breakthrough," says Pedrick, referring to Matador�'s IOR handicap. "When you get right down to it, Koch spent six years and $3 million on the research for Matador�. A typical maxi-boat research budget might be four months and $75,000. I think that the results he achieved are not spectacular in comparison to the time and money that went into the project.
"It's a viable point," Pedrick continues, "that his design group has some momentum going into the America's Cup. But the Cup boats are different enough from maxis that it is not a clean transfer. It's only a loose connection."
Koch's America's Cup syndicate, America� (or " America cubed"), is actually a triumvirate composed of his own campaign plus the San Diego-based Triumph America syndicate and Cleveland's Yankee syndicate, featuring the heartland's favorite sailor, Buddy Melges. Like most syndicate heads, domestic and foreign, Koch expects to spend considerably more than the $20 million he has already committed to the race. He intends to put up two thirds of the money personally and raise the other third from contributions. But in sharp contrast to all the other syndicates, Koch's will be a Corinthian effort—no corporate logos or advertising anywhere. "I like doing things contrarily," he says. "We can do a program without turning it into the Indianapolis 500."
In yet another twist, Koch plans to steer his boat, America� himself. No amateur sailor since Ted Turner in 1977 has been successful as an America's Cup helmsman. "Why should I pay for someone else's ego trip?" Koch says, reasonably but not necessarily wisely.
With Koch on stage, Team Dennis Conner no longer owns the America's Cup spotlight, but with a design group that includes Pedrick, Bruce Nelson, Alberto Calderon and Chris Todter (previously of the 1987 Aussie defender, Kookaburra, and the Australian tycoon Alan Bond's campaigns), Conner has a good start. Three of the four designers were instrumental in originating the International America's Cup Class, and Calderon was noted for his work on 1987's innovative fore-and-aft ruddered 12-meter USA. The good news from the Conner camp is that the team plans to build three boats, two of which will be entered in the defender trials in January 1992. The bad news is that the first won't hit the water until March '91. Detractors say Conner has nothing new to offer this time around. Pay no attention. That has been said before.
Without a doubt the most unusual campaign is Beach Boys USA. The syndicate became the first U.S. team with a boat in the water when it bought France's IACC design, F-1. In hiring skipper John Bertrand, Beach Boys has got an Olympic silver medalist and a man of quiet confidence, as well as an experienced support team that includes many of Bertrand's Fremantle teammates from America II.
The Beach Boys' foremost liability appears to be the Beach Boys. Although the syndicate denies it, much of its financing was reported to be coming from a 200-city Beach Boys national tour scheduled for 1991-92. But several weeks ago at a news conference in Newport, it was announced that the group will not be offering any funds directly to the syndicate. Instead, it will make free concert tickets available to syndicate VIPs. Free tickets, however, do not buy sails. The joke making the rounds now is that the America's Cup may keep the Beach Boys alive, instead of the other way around.
The New York Yacht Club, which held the Cup for 132 years, is not racing this time and probably will not race again until a U.S. defender loses and the Cup goes abroad once more. The boys from West 44th Street don't warm to the idea of competing so that the San Diego Yacht Club can keep the America's Cup.
While court battles may have tarnished the America's Cup domestically, internationally, the Auld Mug has lost none of its luster. A record 10 nations have issued 12 separate challenges. In order of predicted strength, they are the following: