With all the wings sprouting around Newport this week they ought to rename the America's Cup the America's Coop.
Now that the Defender/Courageous syndicate is out of the running, Defender was hoisted from the water today to reveal the oddest looking flappers in town. Somebody painted TWA over the blunt little airfoils, which were attached to the keel in secrecy last week. The consensus was the logo stands for "Two Wooden Appendages."
The British have a pair of detachable wings on their Victory '83 and Freedom, the stablemate of U.S. selection Liberty, has a smooth pair of delta-shaped wings stuck on the bottom of her keel.
But these are generally practice gadgets. The good news is that the wings everyone wants to see, the ones that could be responsible for spiriting the America's Cup out of America for the first time in 132 years, will be unveiled before Cup finals start Sept. 13.
Australian syndicate chief Alan Bond, whose outfit started the whole flap with the secret, winged keel on Australia II, said he will stage a public unveiling, assuming Australia wins the right to challenge.
Her prospects took another leap forward today as Australia II routed her only remaining opponent, Victory '83, by 3 minutes 7 seconds to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven final challenger trials.
That result was expected, given Australia II's dominance in the challenge competition all summer. But Bond's proposal was not.
The Australians offered to unveil the keel earlier this summer in an effort to short-circuit New York Yacht Club attempts to have the boat banned from competition. But when the NYYC dropped its protests last month, the Australians dropped the offer. Designer Ben Lexcen has threatened to take the boat back to Australia without letting anyone see the keel.
But sources in the Australian camp said Bond wants to unveil it the day before racing begins against Liberty, the U.S. defender that was chosen Friday. They said he may seek commercial backing for the unveiling and turn it into a profit-making venture. Bond said the public would be welcome, then laughed and added, "but it'll cost you $1,000."
Liberty skipper Dennis Conner said he's extremely interested in seeing the keel, so he'll at least know what he's up against. He reflected the general U.S. view that significance of the Australian keel breakthrough is still not known, and won't be until Liberty gets a chance to square off against Australia at least twice, once in light air and once in heavy air.
John Kolius, who was in the running as skipper of venerable Courageous until Liberty was selected, said today he doubts Australia II and Liberty, a conventionally designed 12 meter, will be equal.
"Australia II is either a step ahead or a step behind," said Kolius. "It's just too different to be dead even. I'd be very surprised if they are close. The margin of victory (in Liberty-Australia II races) should be over a minute," one way or the other, he said.
If that minute turns out to fall in the Australians' favor and they succeed in doing what no foreign challenger has done in 24 previous tries, the Royal Perth Yacht Squadron will suddenly have thrust upon it the duty of defending the Cup. RPYS isn't exactly banking on that, but officials are making a few preliminary plans.
"We're going to win it first before we make any decision" about timing of the defense, said Commodore Peter Dalziell, "but we do have the water, the space and the weather" to accommodate an America's Cup summer.
Summer in Australia is winter in America. "We could do it either in the three months before or the three months after Christmas," said Dalziell. He said the preference is for a 1987 series starting just after New Year's, when moderate afternoon southwesterlies grace Perth's seaport town, Fremantle.
There was much good will in the two American camps today in the aftermath of Friday's selection of Liberty over Courageous to defend the Cup. The Courageous crew offered sails, equipment and assistance to Conner in his bid to keep the Cup in America. Conner responded by phoning Kolius to invite him to sail on Freedom and Liberty in the upcoming week during tuneups for the finals, something syndicate members said the skipper has never done before.
Conner said battered Liberty will get a new mast, some new sails and repairs to a crack in the keel and some damage from minor collisions this weekend. He expects to resume sail testing and fine tuning Monday or Tuesday.