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San Diego Agrees to Multinational Challenge This Year

February 25, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ The San Diego Yacht Club has agreed to a proposal for a multinational America’s Cup challenge this year, but the agreement may have come too late for challengers to build a boat in time for a sailoff with New Zealand before the cup regatta in September.

State Supreme Court Justice Carmen Ciparick in Manhattan had ruled on Nov. 25 that the San Diego Yacht Club must accept New Zealand banker-yachtsma n Michael Fay’s proposal for the regatta.

Sail America, the yacht-racing syndicate whose 12-meter boat, Stars & Stripes, won the America’s Cup from Australia a year ago, wanted to wait four years before defending its title.

The San Diego Yacht Club, home to Stars & Stripes skipper Dennis Conner, tried to spurn Fay’s challenge before losing in court.

Royal Burnham, representing financier Peter deSavary and the Royal Burnham Yacht Club of Great Britain, filed suit Jan. 25 seeking entry into the next race for the cup. Ciparick reserved decision Wednesday and did not set a date for the next hearing on the request.

Kenneth Poovey, an attorney for San Diego, said after the hearing Wednesday that the syndicate had considered it ″an empty gesture″ to open the 1988 challenge to other nations when it seemed impossible for them to meet the deadline.

However, San Diego changed its mind with the British court challenge, which also seeks to postpone the race until 1989.

Peter Debreceny, a spokesman for the New Zealand challenge, said in a statement released today that San Diego’s concession ″demonstrates that their previous refusal to accept challengers from other countries was totally unjustified.″

The event proposed for next September would feature boats with a 90-foot waterline - roughly twice as long as the yachts that have raced for the America’s Cup since 1957.

Michael Fay, the New Zealander sponsored by the Mercury Bay Boating Club, plans to launch his 90-foot waterline monohull next month.

The cases were being heard by Ciparick because the race charter, called the Deed of Gift, is housed in New York.