The ingredients for winning the America's Cup are boat speed, crew work, and tactics.
Challengers and defenders are trying to fine-tune this combination as they conclude the fourth round-robin races this week.
As of March 6, the standings among the defenders were: Young America (PACT `95 syndicate) first with 13 wins, 6 losses; Stars & Stripes (Team Dennis Conner), 11 wins, 8 losses; and Bill Koch's new boat, Mighty Mary, 5 wins, 15 losses.
So far, fluky winds off San Diego have made tactics important. By the time the challengers and defenders meet head to head on May 6, however, the winds are expected to be a steady 10 to 15 knots, placing a premium on boat speed, says Ken Read, part of the PACT `95 effort and the recent winner of the Rolex Yachtsman of the Year award.
For the past several weeks, the crews have been working on improving boat speed. Read says all three syndicates are going through the '' 'exploding boat' syndrome, where parts and pieces feel like they are flying around the boat at Mach speed.'' Once the boats are tuned to deal with the conditions, ''they won't be an ounce overweight to get the most speed out of them,'' he says.
This series is critical for the all-women's crew on America3. The women had a new boat, Mighty Mary, arrive on Feb. 17. Last month, Bill Koch, the Kansas oil man who provided the initial funding for the team, told the Monitor the new boat should sail the 18.5-mile race course 2 or 3 minutes faster than the older boat, which won the Cup in 1992.
''The women are going to have a fast boat. They just have to get their skills up as team players to determine whether they win or not,'' Koch said.
At the moment, Read says, the challengers have faster boats, led by New Zealand's Black Magic 2, which had lost only one race as of March 6. ''We are playing catch-up with them,'' he says.
The finals will be the best of nine races. It will be broadcast live on the ESPN network.