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WHY WE LOST THE AMERICA'S CUP

March 12, 1984
March 12, 1984

Table of Contents
March 12, 1984

The Flamingo
Kansas City
Steve Young
Umpire School
West Germans
Tennis
College Basketball
TV/Radio
America's Cup
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

WHY WE LOST THE AMERICA'S CUP

The author, who skippered Defender in the trials, says the U.S. had charted a fatal course before the races began

I didn't get involved in last year's defense of the America's Cup out of some long-standing desire to be a Cup skipper or out of patriotism or anything like that. I did it because Dennis Conner was apparently going to sail unopposed straight into the 25th defense.

This is an article from the March 12, 1984 issue Original Layout

Gary Jobson and I began talking about a Cup effort toward the end of the 1980 trials, but the reason it actually happened was that a fairly large group of people, sailors I respect and admire, also thought there should be some competition. We felt sure we would be able to provide it, and we might have if....

I'm trying to figure out what went wrong for us and for the U.S. How was the longest winning streak in the history of sport broken? How in the world did it happen? And why?

The obvious answer is that the U.S. was outdesigned by Ben Lexcen. No doubt about it, Australia II was the better boat. It maneuvered better, which in match racing is critical. If you have a boat that maneuvers well and you can get ahead of your competitor, there's no way the guy can get around you. On some points of sail, Liberty's straight-line speed was probably pretty good, but she was hopelessly inadequate in the tacking duels.

But Lexcen wasn't the only reason the U.S. lost the America's Cup. And neither were Conner's tactics in the last two races. I think Conner and his guys sailed the wheels off Liberty. Accusing Dennis of losing the Cup because he didn't cover on the run in the seventh and final race or on the beat in the sixth race is total bunk. Conner's tactics were arguable, but he did what he thought he had to do, based on what he knew about that boat, and he was goddam lucky to get to the seventh race. Enormously lucky. Think about it. Race 1, Australia II is in the lead, and her steering gear breaks. She luffs up, her spinnaker collapses, and still she loses by only 1:10. Race 2, Australia II's main halyard comes unlocked, and the head of the mainsail rips off. The Australians shouldn't even have been able to sail, and still they lose by only 1:33. Race 3, the Australians win going away, but the time limit expires [a race must be finished in five hours and 15 minutes], and the win doesn't count. Race 3 is rerun, and Australia II wins. Race 4, Conner and company sail a perfect race. They win the start with a daring port-tack maneuver, every wind shift goes their way, they make not a single mistake in 24 miles and they win by 43 seconds. The score is 3-1 Liberty, but it could very easily have been 4-0 Australia II.

In my opinion, all three of the main players in the American effort are to blame for losing the Cup—the New York Yacht Club's America's Cup Committee, the Liberty syndicate and my own group, the Defender/Courageous syndicate, though not necessarily in that order.

Let's begin with the New York Yacht Club. The defender of the America's Cup has always been chosen by the America's Cup Committee. You don't have races to decide who wins the right to defend the Cup; instead, you perform for a committee that presumably rates your performance on the basis of some specific criteria, but no one tells you what the criteria are. For us it was like playing a game without knowing the rules. The committee would start and then abandon races between the U.S. boats, or they would shorten races, and you were left to guess what it meant. An America's Cup course is 24.3 miles long, yet Defender, our boat, which was conceived and designed to try to defend the America's Cup, never once in her 14-month existence raced a full America's Cup course. In fact, there was only one full-length race held between American boats all summer long. That was Liberty vs. Courageous on July 24, and it was also the best race of the trials. Liberty won by 15 seconds. Meanwhile, of course, the foreigners, who ran their own trials for the right to challenge and who were independent of the America's Cup Committee, were sailing full-length races. Out of 164 races among the challengers, 20 went the full 24.3 miles.

It was almost as if our committee members were trying to confuse everybody—the press, the owners of the boats, the sailors—to keep them all off balance and have it all be a total muddle so that when they did make their decision nobody could question it. That's the way it seemed to me. It was comparable to having some committee of NFL people decide who would play in the Super Bowl: "That bounce was really a random bounce so we'll give x amount of credit to this team and y to that one, and we'll balance it all out eventually, but you'll have to trust us to decide which way the ball would have bounced if it had bounced correctly," the committee might say. You can imagine what that might do to the competitiveness of all the teams playing the game all season long.

One time we really had Liberty at the start. We crossed the line and, 35 seconds later, she crossed the line. Then, one minute after that, the race was abandoned. O.K. But in another race, I think it was on the same day, Liberty did approximately the same thing to us. She crossed the starting line some 30 seconds ahead of us, but the committee let that race go on. We lost it, but it was a good, solid contest. We almost caught her. But the race that was abandoned might have been a good one, too. So what did it mean? How did they score it? You never knew. The newspapers printed scores, but they were only guesses, because nobody knew how, or even whether, the committee was scoring the races. It was all very confusing and very depressing. I don't know how the other people involved reacted to the arbitrary power of those men on that committee, but it weighed heavily on me.

As it turned out, there was a way to find out what the criteria were, but it took a while for me to figure it out: You talked to the various committee members, in private. That's how the old boys do it, I found out. You establish personal communication with individual committee members. The Liberty people did it every day, two or three times a day. It was one of their priorities, like getting a good boat, good sails or a good crew. They figured it was part of the game, and, by God, they were right. It is part of the game, but it's dead-ass wrong!

As a sailor I can understand having 10 races, throwing out two and recognizing the boat with the best score as the winner. I understand that. I've raced all my life. But obviously my approach to this whole thing was far too simplistic. I thought, "This isn't the way it should be," and so I didn't, as a matter of principle, or pigheadedness or naiveté, call it what you will, play the game. I didn't say one word to the committee the whole damn summer.

Well, that's not quite true. I said something in July, when the committee's handling of the keel controversy was really bothering me. At that point the committee members were questioning the decision of the official measurers, who had said Australia II was a legal 12-meter. What the committee said was, "We're not questioning the decision, we're questioning the interpretation of the rule that was used in the measurement." They had to say that so the question would go back not to the measurement committee, which was clearly going to stand behind its original decision, but to the International Yacht Racing Union, with which they thought they might stand a chance.

Eventually, of course, the whole thing blew up in their faces when it was revealed by Peter de Savary, the head of the British syndicate, that the I.Y.R.U. had declared in writing a year earlier that winged keels were legal. But in July '83, the members of the selection committee didn't know that yet, and "reinterpretation" was their ploy. They wanted that boat, Australia II, out of there. They felt that figuring out a way to get her out was just part of the game. Anyway, in July, I didn't understand how they thought they could overrule the decision of the measurement committee, no matter how they went about it, when right in their own race conditions it says that the decision of the measurers is final. So I said something at the end of one of our protest hearings. After everyone except me and the committee had left the room, I said, "I feel compelled to say to you guys something I feel in my heart that I think probably represents the feeling of a lot of the sailors in the U.S., and that is, this keel thing has gotten way out of hand, and if there's any way you can tone down what's going on, it would really be good for sailing." I also said, "I realize that you guys feel that you have to do what you have to do, and I respect that, but what I'm saying is that it doesn't look right. It really looks bad."

They landed on me hard, Bus Mosbacher in particular. He said, "You've let the press get to you." I said, "Wait a minute, that didn't have to do with the press or anything else. That came from my heart, and that's all. I won't say any more." And then I walked out. That was my only run-in with Mosbacher, and although Defender was not entirely out of the running at that time, I figure this incident may well have closed the book on her as far as the committee was concerned.

It's wrong for the selection committee to have that much power. It can't be good for the racing. It destroys the competition. The protest hearings were more like a kangaroo court. In match racing, the protest is very important. In any other kind of racing you stay out of the protest room at all costs, but in a match race you have to force things, and the protest becomes an integral part of the competition. Sometimes, unfortunately, the legal part of it gets more important than the racing. Anyway, the N.Y.Y.C. was not interested in who won or who lost the protest, but more in how the protest was submitted and whether it was submitted in a manner that was approved by the club. The first couple of protests I was involved in, I couldn't believe that the issue wasn't who was right or wrong on the racecourse, which might well have decided who won the race, but rather that the immense knowledge of the America's Cup Committee of the New York Yacht Club be imparted to us competitors.

The selection method has been in use for a long time. Not only does it diminish competition, it has also had the effect, over the years, of keeping away a lot of sailing talent and money that might otherwise have gone into the America's Cup effort. That, too, depresses the level of competition in the long run.

Although I think the America's Cup Committee, particularly its chairman, Bob McCullough, handled many situations badly last summer, by far the worst, in my opinion, and the least discussed, was the way the committee got in bed with Conner and the Liberty group in the matter of multiple measurement certificates. To Conner's credit, he figured out an unorthodox but legal way to alter Liberty to suit the conditions. By first having the boat measured in three different configurations and then, on the basis of the weather forecast for the next day, jerking a thousand pounds or so of ballast off, he managed to make his turkey a little better in light weather. He and his designers should be congratulated for that. But for making some kind of an agreement with the N.Y.Y.C. to keep what they were doing secret from the other American competitors, they should all have been drawn and quartered. Paragraph 23 of the N.Y.Y.C.'s own "Conditions Governing Races for the America's Cup (1983)" says that if a change, such as one in a boat's ballast, is made, the change must be within the 12-meter rule (which this was), that the boat must be remeasured (which Liberty was), that the race committee must be notified of the change (which it was) and that the other boats must be notified of the remeasurement (which we were not).

There are two reasons for notifying the other boats, both having to do with keeping the competition fair. The other contenders could make sure the remeasurement was done properly, and they would be aware that the boat they prepared to race against today may behave somewhat differently than it did yesterday.

Technically, the "Conditions Governing Races for the America's Cup" apply only to the Cup races themselves, but because there are no written rules that I know of governing the Cup trials, surely the same rules and the same reasoning would apply to the trials, especially because the selection committee is supposed to be impartial in its selection of the best American boat. If the committee is not impartial, then a lot of people who have contributed millions of dollars in good faith—the backers of the Defender/Courageous syndicate—are throwing their money down a hole.

So as I see it, the N.Y.Y.C. broke its own rules by not telling Defender and Courageous what it was doing. It was ungoddam-believable. People cheat and things like that, but it's doubly bad to have this committee that's supposed to be the referee, judge and jury, in collusion with one of the competitors.

In spite of my objections to the way the committee operated, however, I should make one thing clear: Given what they had to look at, I think the committee made the correct decision in choosing Liberty. But if things had been different, the committee might have had more and better boats to choose from. Therein lies the rest of the sad tale.

The committee, in the person of Bob McCullough, repeatedly said to me and to members of the Defender/Courageous syndicate, "Anything we can do to help you, we'll do. Just tell us what you want us to do." The only thing we asked them to do was, please, organize races between the Defender/Courageous group and Conner's group, first in September '82 and then in March '83, to measure the progress of the boats. We got absolutely nowhere. In September '82, the four boats would have been Defender and Courageous, Freedom and Spirit. It would have taught us all a lot. Because Freedom would have killed Defender in any kind of breeze at all, it would have taught us what a dog Defender was in heavy weather, possibly early enough to have done something about it. It would have taught Dennis, right off the bat, how slow both Freedom and Spirit were downwind, because Defender would have blitzed them. And Liberty, which was in the design stage at the time, could have been approached with that in mind. Since, as it turned out, Liberty's downwind weakness was her downfall, the decision not to race may have been critical.

Even if we had raced in March 1983, after Liberty had been launched, her poor downwind performance would have been obvious, and the money and effort of the Conner group could have been concentrated on solving the problem. It would have been a simpler proposition to make Liberty faster downwind than to make Defender better upwind.

So, why did the New York Yacht Club not do as we asked, since clearly it was in the club's best interest to do so? It could have. It could have demanded that all the American boats meet in a U.S. 12-meter championship, or even a California 12-meter championship. Our winter camps in San Diego and Newport Beach, Calif. were only 80 miles apart. We could have gotten all four boats together in one day. But the committee wouldn't do it because Conner wouldn't do it. He wouldn't budge, and they wouldn't take it upon themselves to budge him. Conner sat there, thinking he knew everything, that he had all the knowledge and we had none, and that all that would happen if we raced was that we would learn from him, thereby improving our chances of beating him and decreasing his of beating us. Now that, to me, is totally unsporting. Maybe I'm not tough enough about trying to win. I mean, I love to win, but I want to win knowing that I've done my best against people who've done their best. But some people don't sail that way. They guard all their little secrets, but I think it's wrong, dead wrong.

Both Jobson and I knew that those races were critical, not only to our effort but to the whole American effort. We pleaded with our syndicate managers to try to make something happen. No way. With hindsight, one thing becomes clear: When those races didn't get off, the Cup was gone.

But the greatest and most obvious failure of the entire American effort was in the area of design. In the end, we all suffered from an excess of conservatism. In our case, the error was in thinking we could sail our way to victory and therefore not budgeting enough money at the beginning to do an even adequate job of exploring the possibilities of a radical design. In the case of Conner and his group, they started off on the right track. They knew they had to find a better boat because the foreigners might come up with a better boat, and so they budgeted a godawful amount of money—I would estimate $5.5 million—to find that boat. They built three new boats, trying to improve on what they had left from 1980. Two of them, Spirit and Magic, they discarded. But the Conner group didn't have the engineering talent to pull it off. Whether Conner picked the wrong guys, or those guys picked the wrong parameters to investigate, or whether they just weren't capable of forward enough thinking isn't clear, but in my opinion, part of the problem was that Conner himself is conservative with regard to boat design. So am I. I think Dennis also felt he didn't really have to have a radical boat, that his sailing ability, his crew and its experience were enough. It's obvious that he didn't get a radical boat because Liberty, designed by Johan Valentijn, was the final attempt at a new boat and was nothing more than Freedom in disguise. Dennis knew, as Jobson and I did, although we failed to convince the rest of our syndicate, that the committee wouldn't pick an old boat. So he built a boat that was little, if any, better than Freedom, which he had won with in 1980.

This failure to experiment with an advanced concept may well date back to 1974 when Britton Chance, an established designer with a good imagination, thought up Mariner to compete against Intrepid and Courageous in the American trials. Mariner was a radical departure from the 12-meters of that day, and she also turned out to be radically slow. Almost like Advance, the Australian entry that was the dog of the 1983 challenger trials, Mariner ended up as a joke, and Chance's career suffered as a result. From that point on, all American Twelves have been of fairly conventional design. New ideas have had trouble flourishing, particularly since success with conventional designs had come so easily for so long. There seemed to be no need to go out on a limb.

The 12-meter rule, which was devised in 1906, is very strange. Ben Lexcen didn't miraculously discover a principle of hydrodynamics that suddenly would make boats go faster. What he discovered was a quirk within the rule that made a boat of a certain design—one with wings on the keel and a particular waterline and a large sail area and all that—work. It was a miraculous discovery, all right, but only within the confines of that very restrictive rule.

I think having the world's so-called premier yachting event held in these behemoths, the 12-meters, is stupid, but it's tradition. I'm not saying tradition is stupid, but I am saying that a lot of valuable development could be achieved if the America's Cup were sailed under another rule, even the International Offshore Rule, which assigns a handicap allowance to each boat. At least that was written in 1970. But the Australians make the rules now, and at this stage, holding as they do a huge edge in 12-meter technology, they'd be fools to switch to anything else. Alan Bond paid a lot for that edge, and he is certainly no fool.

However, I digress. I have blamed the New York Yacht Club, and I have blamed Dennis Conner. Now it's time to examine the failures of the Defender/Courageous syndicate and my own part in those failures.

Like Conner, I thought that Jobson and I and the crew we recruited could sail our way to victory in the America's Cup, even without the best boat. How wrong I was. It was a fatal error. Although our budget originally had a provision for the building of a second boat if the first wasn't good enough, we never really thought that would happen. Also, we were relatively late in getting our financial support organized. In fact, when Defender was launched in June 1982, we were half a million dollars in the hole. I realized then—and the effect on my spirit was devastating—that if something was wrong with this boat, there was nothing we could do. It meant that one degree of our freedom was taken away. We had to work within the limits of the boat we had. But I told myself—what else could I do?—that I could sail my way out of a bad boat. That was major error No. 1. Major error No. 2: I hadn't realized far enough ahead how much money we really needed. Major error No. 3: We failed to buy Courageous outright. Instead, we had to lease her from Dave Vietor and his partners, which meant that Vietor got to be at the helm through 1982. While Vietor is a great guy and a good sailor, he isn't a match racer, and he has never been truly successful in one-design sailing. In my opinion he wasn't able to realize Courageous' full potential, and that masked, for much too long, the fact that Courageous was a lot faster than she looked. That, in turn, masked the fact that Defender was slower than we thought she was.

It's a problem unique to sailboat racing. If you wanted to develop a faster miler or a faster race car, you'd go out on a track and time them. If the runner did a 3:54 mile or the car hit 200 mph at Indianapolis, you'd know they had possibilities, and you'd go to work. But there are almost no absolutes in sailing. You can't tell by looking at an instrument whether the boat is actually performing or not, because conditions change so radically that absolute data become meaningless. The sea comes from different directions, and" the wind changes in direction, velocity and angle in relation to the water. So all you can do is take another boat, put it alongside in the same conditions with identical sails and with the best people you can find in the crew, and then compare the two. It's very complicated, expensive and time-consuming, but there's no other way. Now, the thing about the America's Cup is that the syndicates go out and work by themselves. That's the reason we never knew how good Australia II was. Even the Australians didn't know what they had, because Australia II did a lot of her early testing by herself, with instruments or something. Even after they'd had a short series of races with another Australian boat, Challenge 12, they couldn't tell for sure.

But, again, you have to give Conner credit. He figured out in 1980 that the way to win was to work out an elaborate two-boat program and spend all that money and all that time on it. He knew he needed the time. Now everybody has to spend the same amount of time Dennis does. It frustrates me. I'm just not equipped with the doggedness. If I ever did it again, I'd have to have somebody else develop the boat, because I don't have the patience it takes to endure the testing and the politics.

Anyway, although I tried, through Max O'Meara, to get John Kolius onto the helm of Courageous early, I didn't try hard enough. As I recall, O'Meara's objection was that we hadn't fulfilled our financial commitment to Vietor and his partners for the chartering of Courageous, and if he were to take Vietor off Courageous, Dave might take his boat and go home. I don't think he would have done that, but then, I wasn't the one who would have had to tell him. That had to come from the syndicate, and the syndicate didn't have the nerve to do it, or else they just didn't believe that it was important.

Finally, in January 1983, while we were in winter training in California, Vietor became vice-chairman of the syndicate and Kolius took over the helm, but it then took him about four months to learn how to sail the boat. So for a while Defender was eating up Courageous, and I allowed myself to be lulled into thinking maybe Defender would be all right. By the time we left California for Newport in May '83, Kolius had gotten Courageous moving and things had evened up. They stayed that way for quite a while. Defender was a little bit better in light air, a lot worse in heavy air, and still she managed to come out about even. But that wasn't nearly good enough. I could sort of sense it, but I couldn't admit it.

Meanwhile, by January '83, things were getting rough within our syndicate. The financial and political situations were very bad. Fund raising was lagging badly, and arguments were raging about who controlled the syndicate. Chuck Kirsch—who was syndicate chairman because he had come to Jobson and me and asked, "What can I do to help?" and we'd said, "Why don't you be chairman?"—became increasingly difficult for me to deal with. I think the money was oppressing him as much as it was Jobson and me. The main problem, though, was that with Courageous beginning to come on, the syndicate managers adopted the policy that both boats should be treated entirely equally. That was the syndicate's fatal error, because Courageous, no matter how good she was and how total her redesign had been, was 10 years old. The committee would never select her. It had to be a new boat. My syndicate heads didn't know that, and the crew of Courageous didn't know that, and I wouldn't have expected them to. But I did, and Kirsch and I began to have battles. Then we had a bad falling-out having to do with my personal life, and that was it. I was finished. I should have been able to take it, but I couldn't. I just sort of retired mentally.

Kirsch continually threatened to fire me for one thing or another. Lee Smith, another syndicate member, even went to Atlanta to talk to Ted Turner about replacing me. Turner, who hadn't sailed in three years! I only found out what he was doing because I have a friend who works in Turner's office. I was beat up, and I lost my desire. I probably should have given up my place in the program to somebody else, but there was nobody around who'd been in the system long enough. I was screwed up, and it blunted my ability to think rationally. I should have done things differently, and my syndicate should have, too. And if our effort had been better, Conner's might have been better, and if Conner's had been only a little bit better, the America's Cup might still be in a glass case at the New York Yacht Club instead of at the Royal Perth Yacht Club.

In saying all this, I don't mean in any way to minimize what the Australians accomplished. They got it just right. Bond properly perceived that he couldn't beat the Yanks unless he had something special. He spent the money—$1.5 million for the design alone, I've heard. He set up an organization and kept it intact through four campaigns. His crews learned how to sail the boats, and they sailed very well. The system worked.

My point is that even though Australia II was much the better boat, she still nearly lost. She had a lot of terribly bad luck, and she barely survived. Conceivably, Liberty wouldn't have had to be very much better to have won that last, deciding race. On the second-to-last leg, Liberty started the 4½-mile downwind run with a 57-second lead. Within just a few hundred yards they could see aboard Liberty that Australia II was gaining and had already cut the lead by a third. At that rate, Australia II was obviously going to sail right past her. Dennis elected to defend against that speed by trying to jibe on wind shifts. It didn't work, but he was in a pickle and he didn't have many choices. With hindsight, I'd say it might have been possible for Liberty to luff Australia II far enough off the course so that Liberty could reach back to the leeward mark. Liberty was fast on a reach, maybe even faster than Australia II. However, it would've taken forever, and your chances of holding off even a slightly faster boat for that long are small.

Rounding the leeward mark Australia II had a 21-second lead and Liberty initiated a furious tacking duel. There were 47 tacks in all. By rights, Liberty should have lost about one second per tack. Instead she lost only 20 seconds, because Conner did a very clever thing. I was watching it on TV. He tried a very weird maneuver. He would hold the boat head-to-wind for a long time, then let her fall onto the new tack at a very, very low speed. He was just trying to do something different to throw the Australians off, while at the same time hoping that in all the tacking the Australians might rip a sail or have an override on a winch—anything. As it was, both boats tacked superbly each time, and Australia II just slowly sailed away.

But consider this. Australia II won that race by 41 seconds. In spite of her much greater maneuverability, she had gained only 20 seconds on that last beat. If Liberty had been 40 seconds faster over the 4½ miles of the previous downwind leg, she could conceivably have held the Australians off. And if Conner and his people had known soon enough that Liberty was very slow downwind, if they'd raced with us as I'd wanted them to, they might have been able to do something about it. All of us—the New York Yacht Club, the Liberty syndicate and the Defender/Courageous syndicate—could have and should have produced a better effort.

I'm not happy that the Australians won the America's Cup, but I think it's nothing but good for the event that they did. I think the Australians, being great sportsmen, will make the Cup a lot more competitive, a lot more fun. And a lot more fair. They've yelled for so many years about the N.Y.Y.C. and how screwed up the America's Cup is, I hope they remember what happened and don't do the same thing. They'll take it very seriously, but they won't put winning it ahead of making it competitive. I think that's what the N.Y.Y.C. did, and it was unhealthy for sailing.

The America's Cup would be a better event if somebody could figure out a way to limit the expenditure of time and money, but anybody who wants to get into it better have 1.5 million bucks in his war chest right now to begin the research process. That's where it has to begin. We paid Dave Pedrick $100,000 for the design of Defender and $80,000 for testing it. Alan Bond spent 10 times that much.

Personally, I prefer a test of sailing to a test of which designer put the right lines on a piece of paper two or three years ago. To me, that's not very interesting. But a lot of people do care about which boat is the best, and this year we found out. At the moment, the Australians have a very sizable edge in the design of 12-meters. Now we have to go down there and get 'em. But it's not going to be easy.

TWO PHOTOSLexcen's grasp of the 12-meter rule put Australia II (right) out in front of Liberty in the final race and gave the Cup a new berth Down Under.TWELVE PHOTOSThe main characters (see box, page 70), left to right, top row: author/Defender skipper Blackaller; America's Cup Committee chairman McCullough; committee member Mosbacher; Defender/Courageous syndicate chairman Kirsch; Defender/Courageous operations manager O'Meara; Australia II syndicate head Bond. Bottom row: Australia II designer Lexcen; Liberty designer Valentijn; Defender tactician/syndicate co-founder Jobson; Courageous part-owner/first '83 skipper Vietor; Courageous second skipper Kolius; Liberty skipper Conner.PHOTOThe N.Y.Y.C. selection committee members kept too much information under their hats too long.PHOTOThe lack of races against other boats early on obscured Defender's weakness in heavy weather.TWO PHOTOSCourageous surprised her stablemate, Defender (US-33), and sailed on to challenge Liberty for the right to defend.PHOTOWhen Conner was selected to defend once more, it was thought his experience might carry the day.PHOTOBlackaller got a consoling hug after he was excused.PHOTOThe keel that hauled in the America's Cup gave Australia II exceptional speed and maneuverability.PHOTOLiberty had led by 57 seconds in Race 7, but Australia II passed her on the next-to-last leg.

THE MAIN CHARACTERS

THE AUTHOR
Tom Blackaller, 44, helmsman on Defender during the 1983 America's Cup trials and co-founder of the Defender/Courageous syndicate. Blackaller is West Coast operations manager for North Sails and a two-time world Star class champion. He has skippered ocean racing yachts in all of the world's principal regattas. For fun he races sports cars; he finished fifth overall in the Daytona 24-hour in February. He was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and is a member of the St. Francis Yacht Club. He is also a man of blunt speech.

THE CLUB MEN

Robert c. (Bob) McCullough, 63, former commodore of the New York Yacht Club (N.Y.Y.C.) and head of America's Cup syndicates in 1970 and '74. In 1983, McCullough was chairman of the America's Cup Committee, also known as "the selection committee," the group of nine N.Y.Y.C. members charged with conducting three months of trials and then choosing the yacht to represent the N.Y.Y.C. in the Cup defense.

Emil (Bus) Mosbacher, 61, an influential member of the America's Cup Committee, a businessman from Greenwich, Conn., chief of protocol in the Richard M. Nixon Administration and the skipper of Weatherly, which successfully defended the Cup against Australia's Gretel in 1962, and of Intrepid when she was the successful defender in '67 against Australia's Dame Pattie.

THE SYNDICATE MEN

Charles (Chuck) Kirsch, 56, chairman of the Defender/Courageous syndicate and a Midwestern businessman. He was recently chosen to direct the America II Challenge syndicate that will represent the N.Y.Y.C. in its quest for the Cup in Perth in '87.

Martin J. (Max) O'Meara, 55, operations manager for the Defender/Courageous syndicate, a businessman from Hartford, Conn. and a yachtsman who has been involved, both on a crew and on shore, in four Cup campaigns, beginning with Ted Turner's unsuccessful attempt with Mariner in 1974.

Alan Bond, 45, a Western Australian con-glomerateur and self-made zillionaire whose money and drive have fueled four Cup challenges. With Australia II, Bond hit pay dirt.

THE DESIGNERS

Ben Lexcen, 47, the eccentric genius whose Australia II, with her radical winged keel, sailed away from six foreign challengers and then from Liberty, 4-3, in the Cup races.

Johan Valentijn, 36, the Dutch-born designer of both Liberty and one of her two discarded stablemates, Magic.

THE U.S. SAILORS

Gary Jobson, 33, tactician aboard Defender and co-founder of the Defender/Courageous syndicate.

Dave Vietor, 42, Courageous skipper in '82 and one of her present owners. Vietor and his partners leased Courageous to the Defender/Courageous syndicate.

John Kolius, 32, the sailmaker who replaced Vietor at the helm of Courageous in December 1982 and steered her through the Selection Trials. He will be skipper and helmsman for Kirsch's syndicate in '87.

Dennis Conner, 41, skipper of Liberty, the loser in 1983, and Freedom, the winner in '80. Like Blackaller, Conner is a two-time world Star champion from California (San Diego). A perfectionist and a feared competitor, Conner, by his own count, has spent more hours at the helm of 12-meters than anyone else alive. He has put together his own syndicate—America's Cup 87—to challenge in Perth.

THE BOATS

DEFENDER, COURAGEOUS, LIBERTY—the contenders from the U.S.

FREEDOM—Liberty's trial horse.

SPIRIT, MAGIC—might-have-beens built for and rejected by the Freedom 83 Campaign, official name of Conner's Liberty syndicate.

AUSTRALIA II—the winner.