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Appeals Court Awards America’s Cup to San Diego

September 19, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ The America’s Cup was returned Tuesday to the San Diego Yacht Club by a state appeals court, which reversed a decision that stripped the club of sailing’s most coveted prize and gave it to a New Zealand group.

The 4-1 ruling by the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division restored the Cup to the San Diego group more than five months after state Supreme Court Justice Carmen Ciparick awarded the prize to the Mercury Bay Boating Club.

″San Diego’s catamaran was an eligible yacht,″ the appeals court said. ″It was the winner of the two races held on Sept. 7 and 9, 1988, for the America’s Cup and ... as the winner of the two races, is entitled to the America’s Cup.″

Ciparick had found April 7 that competing vessels must be ″somewhat evenly matched″ in America’s Cup competition. San Diego’s use of a lighter, faster, twin-hulled catamaran against the monohull New Zealand boat ″violated the spirit″ of the international competition, she ruled in declaring the race forfeited.

Unlike catamarans, conventional monohull sailboats require an underwater keel for stability, and that increases drag.

The race and its prize are named for the yacht ″America,″ which first won the cup in a race around the Isle of Wight on Aug. 22, 1851. The six owners of the America donated the cup to the New York Yacht Club to be held in trust ″as a perpetual challenge cup for friendly competition between foreign countries,″ thereby giving New York state courts jurisdiction.

The appeals court said Ciparick had, on her own, pronounced a rule that is neither expressed nor implied in the Deed of Gift, the 1887 trust document which governs the race.

″San Diego Yacht Club should not be deprived of its victory simply because the design of its vessel was more innovative and more successful in achieving its purpose than that of the challenger,″ wrote appeals court Justice Israel Rubin.

″Between true yachtsmen, victory is pursued on the water and not in the courtroom.″

Michael Fay, spokesman for the New Zealand group, immediately attacked Tuesday’s ruling as ″a disgrace. ... It is wrong, plain and simple. If this ruling is not overturned, sportsmanship and the Cup are out the window.″

″Obviously I’m pleased with the decision,″ said Dennis Conner, skipper of Stars and Stripes in the 1988 races. ″It is an exciting victory for my hometown of San Diego and the many individuals who worked to keep the Cup here.″

In 1983, for the first time in 132 years of competition, a challenger, the Royal Perth Yacht Club of Australia, succeeded in wresting the cup from New York in a series of races off Newport, R.I.

San Diego won the cup from Royal Perth in races off Fremantle, Australia, in late 1986.

In July 1987, Fay and Mercury Bay ignored modern America’s Cup tradition in challenging San Diego, based on a technical oversight by San Diego: the club failed to announce after winning the cup from Royal Perth how it would meet challenges.

Fay wanted the race held within one year rather than the usual three to four years. He wanted a one-on-one race with others excluded, instead of the usual elimination matches. And he wanted to compete in a 132-foot boat more than 90 feet long at the water line, instead of the so-called 12-meter formula yachts, about 45 feet at the water line, that have been used in America’s Cup racing since 1958.

San Diego rejected the Mercury Bay challenge and Fay went to court. Ciparick ruled on Nov. 25, 1987, that Fay’s challenge, though unorthodox, was valid under the Deed of Gift and she ordered the race.

San Diego’s easily swept the first two of the best-two-of-three series, Fay returned to court, and in April Ciparick gave the Cup to Mercury Bay.

19-89 1734EDT

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