A fascinatingly detailed account of how a handful of Japanese sailing enthusiasts overcame cultural tradition and public disinterest to make their country a credible contender for one of yachting's greatest prizes--the America's Cup. As Smith (Tokyo bureau chief for the International Herald Tribune) makes clear, Japan has tended to view the seas that surround it as a moat against the outside world or as an avenue of conquest, not as a playground. In 1987, however, a salty business executive named Tatsumitsu Yamasaki began to promulgate the idea that the island nation should vie for the 1992 America's Cup, in part to prove its willingness to compete on a playing field that had been a Western preserve. Yamasaki recruited sailing talent at home and abroad (mainly in New Zealand) while raising billions of yen from scores of corporate sponsors, including Yamaha. The syndicate's brain trust has surmounted any number of technical and allied difficulties in its drive to mount a viable challenge; today, a sleek craft christened J-26 is faring well in trial runs offshore San Diego. Among other problems, the author explains, ocean racing, with its sudden-death decisions in one-on-one matches, goes against the Japanese grain. In their games as well as commerce, he notes, the Japanese prefer long campaigns equivalent to wars of attrition in which they can wear down opponents by outlasting them. Win, lose, or draw, however, the newcomers are in the high-stakes sport to stay, Smith reports. In fact, Yamasaki has incorporated a for-profit enterprise with a broadcasting network, marina, and allied properties to keep the yachting venture on a sound footing after the America's Cup finals have been held in May A fine yarn for mariners, armchair or otherwise, and a cautionary tale for those who do business in great waters.