If politics make strange bedfellows, wait till you hear what the America's Cup could have in store.

Informed sources say two of sailing's fiercest public enemies over the last five years -- San Diego Cupholder Dennis Conner and New Zealand yacht designer Bruce Farr -- could wind up toasting each other as teammates in a joint 1992 Cup defense effort.

Shocking? You bet. You may remember the news conference after the 1988 Cup debacle in San Diego, when a red-faced Conner turned to the designer of the just-vanquished New Zealand challenger and issued the immortal words:

"Get off the stage, you little {unprintable}, you're a loser."

Or you might look further back, to 1986 in Fremantle, Australia, when Conner wondered aloud in public why a fellow like Farr would choose to design a 12-meter Cup entry of fiberglass instead of the standard aluminum, "unless you wanted to cheat." Later, Conner called for an inquiry into the fiberglass hull and urged that core samples be drilled for testing.

The clear target each time was Farr, then and now the world's most successful yacht designer, who reacted with bitter indignation, particularly at the implication he would cheat.

A native New Zealander now living in Annapolis, Farr is the unanimous choice of knowledgable sailors as the top yacht designer of the '80s. Even Conner conceded that in an interview last year, saying: "If Joe Montana is the quarterback of the decade, Bruce Farr has to be the yacht designer of the decade. . . . Anybody in the world would love to have him design their boat."

Farr has drawn the lines for winners in just about every important big-boat class in the world. The top three finishers in the just-completed Whitbread 'Round the World Race were his; the top three in the 1989 Admirals Cup were Farr's; his Longobarda took the '89 maxiboat Worlds.

Now comes his longtime nemesis and once sternest detractor, apparently trying to lure him onto the Dennis Conner team.

Nobody would confirm it for the record yesterday, and Farr declined to respond to phone inquiries, but knowledgable sources at the highest levels of international sailing say Conner is wooing Farr to design his entry for the upcoming 1992 Cup off San Diego.

Well-placed sources in San Diego confirmed negotiations are under way with Farr and are at a "sensitive stage."

By virtue of his 10-year residence in the United States, Farr legally could design a Cup contender for either New Zealand or the United States. (Cup rules require that a competing boat be designed and built by residents or citizens of the country it represents.)

Whether Farr could swallow the bitter pill of working with his arch-enemy is a bigger question.

There's bad blood aplenty to overcome. The battle started four years ago in Australia, when Conner's Stars & Stripes and the Farr-designed 12-meter New Zealand, nicknamed "the Plastic Fantastic," were the top two contenders in challenge trials for the right to sail against an Australian defender for the Cup.

When New Zealand won two of its first three meetings with Conner and 35 of its first 36 races in challenger trials, Conner began a pitched assault, questioning the legality of the fiberglass entry. Later, members of his team suggested the attack was in part a diversionary tactic to distract the New Zealanders from the sailing task at hand.

Many think it worked, because when New Zealand and Stars & Stripes squared off in the best-of-seven challenger finals, Conner waltzed to a convincing 4-1 victory and went on to win the Cup.

But poison hung in the air. The dispute erupted again with a vengeance six months later when New Zealand syndicate chief Michael Fay filed a hostile Cup challenge, demanding a race for the Cup against Conner in a new, Farr-designed 132-footer -- a size not seen in sailing in half a century.

Conner responded by building a sleek catamaran, a move roundly derided and later unsuccessfully challenged in court as unsportsmanlike and illegal because it left Farr's monohull no chance to win.

Farr decried the race as a disgraceful mismatch, and when the debacle on the water concluded, Conner called him names that don't get printed in family newspapers.

Now comes Conner with a white flag, rarely seen in public. Will it work?

Unlikely. But the America's Cup is a weird affair that turns largely on the linchpin of money, and Conner claims he's close to announcing big corporate support for his '92 defense, even though he's fighting 10 other U.S. syndicates for money.

Meanwhile, 20 challengers from 15 nations have announced intentions to come to San Diego to try to take the Cup away. Racing will commence in January 1991 in a new class of 75-foot, ultralight fiberglass sloops.

Notable among the challenges is the entry of Fay, twice-defeated New Zealander. Won't Farr go with his countryman again? All that can be safely said is that he hasn't, so far.

But Farr and Conner side by side on the defense team?

It's bizarre!