KEELHAULED: A History of Unsportsmanlike Conduct and the America's Cup by Doug Riggs

KEELHAULED: A History of Unsportsmanlike Conduct and the America's Cup

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KIRKUS REVIEW

More a position paper than a history, this book alms to exculpate the New York Yacht Club from the loss of the America's Cup in 1983 after 132 years of ownership. Riggs, a reporter for the Providence Journal, maintains that while the America's Cup competition was often unsportsmanlike in its early years, it had been made honest in modern times. Unfortunately for the NYYC, Riggs argues, the Australians cheated (off the racecourse), took advantage of the club's sense of fair play, and cynically exploited the NYYC's image of pomposity and privilege. In particular, Riggs charges that Australia H probably did not conform to regulation size and had a keel (the famous winged keel) that was illegally designed by Dutchmen and a mast illegally designed by Americans. However, because of manipulation of the media by the Australians and because of the club's inept public relations, it seemed that the NYYC was trying to disqualify Australia H merely because it feared the boat would win the cup. The first third of the book is a pleasant and breezy outline of the history of the cup competition, from the first race in English waters in 1851 to the present day. Ironically, Riggs notes that the NYYC frequently tailored the rules to aid the defending boat (for example, by running early races off Staten Island, making ""local knowledge"" important). But the last two-thirds of the book drifts in its effort to blame the Australians. And only briefly does Riggs convey the beauty and excitement of the event itself--the racing--which makes most fans of big-money sports forgive the accompanying excesses. As for the charge of cheating, the reader finds it hard in the end to have sympathy for the NYYC: besides its own history of writing rules to its advantage, the club itself is to blame for not properly measuring the Australia II and for not thoroughly investigating the charges of illegal design help before it became obvious the Australians had an excellent chance of winning. A tempest becalmed.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1986
Publisher: Seven Seas--dist. by Simon & Schuster