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America's Cup - Ernesto, DC did it, why can't you?

by Rich Roberts on 26 Mar 2008
Stars & Stripes 1988 Morelli & Melvin Design . http://www.morrellimelvin.com
With Justice Kahn ruling against him again. Billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli is on the back foot. Now he complains he just can't get a multihull built in time to meet the 10-month deadline for billionaire Larry Ellison's America's Cup challenge. Rich Roberts wonders why not

Another defender had a similar problem 20 years ago when New Zealand's Sir Michael Fay challenged Dennis Conner's San Diego Yacht Club with a 120-foot winged monohull designed by Bruce Farr to the maximum dimension of 90 feet on the waterline. Realizing they probably couldn't out-do or even match that in such limited time, the defenders, with divine inspiration, seized upon a loophole in the hallowed Deed of Gift: a 60-foot catamaran!

Let us now return to those gloried days of yesteryear to hear from two of the key players in that wild and crazy scheme that set the tone for later tours of the New York State Supreme Court. Gino Morrelli of Morrelli and Melvin was a lead designer. Bob DeLong of RD Boatworks was the builder.

Morrelli said this week, 'It's been funny watching all the posturing and BS flying around. We've been contacted by all the usual suspects but we are only peripherally involved to date in this go-around.'

DeLong said, 'For me, this all brings up a fun time from the past. I am amazed that this is happening all over again. I thought that was the main benefit coming out of 1988, that rules were created that would prevent all of this. Well, I guess history does repeat itself.'

What may have been forgotten is that two catamarans were built, a 'hard sail' and a 'soft sail.' The former would be faster but the latter would be less of a risk for breaking down. DC and his Stars & Stripes crew would sail the soft sail, sometimes without even hoisting a jib. Didn't need it.


Morrelli said, 'I seem to remember it taking two-odd months arguing and designing prior to starting to build.'

'It was a very rushed affair,' DeLong said, '6-8 weeks of talking with DC---he flew in on a helicopter one day!---before they finally pulled the trigger and turned us loose. The only actual blueprints I received on the project were on the hull lines. All of the rest of the plans arrived via the fax machine (generation 1 model with continuous thermal paper).

'With six designers there were a lot of delays and changes. Sometimes, due to these changes, we would have to tear things out and start over. At about the eight-week mark there was finally a summit meeting that froze all design work so the boat could be finished without any further delays.'

Morrelli called DeLong to refresh his memory over two decades. 'He reminded me it took three months and a week to build both platforms, painted and delivered to San Diego. It took Bob just 10 days to build the 60-foot hull plug and mold with 30 guys going. Then we had three-odd months training prior to the event.

'So, all told . . . nine months. we were sailing after about six months.'

DeLong: 'With organization, desire, a lot of manpower, two shifts, seven days a week, it all got done---and could be done again.'

Hear that, Ernesto?

Oh, yeah, we heard you just started to practice sailing a multihull.

Lesson No. 1: make sure both hulls go past the same side of the mark.

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