Water Ways

By Ray Pendleton

Saturday, December 18, 1999

Abracadabra lost
its aloha as well as
too many races

I'VE noticed lately that giving out my e-mail address brings with it a few complications.

Along with receiving way too many bad jokes, another problem I have is with short e-mail messages. It's not always easy to determine the writer's tone of voice. Was a one-liner written with sarcasm or sincerity?

Take, for instance, this brief note: "Hey, what happened to Hawaii's America's Cup boat that you always used to write about?"

I could interpret that as a personal dig at my supporting a losing team and ignore him. But, instead, I suppose it's better to assume the best and give him, and you, some final thoughts on Abracadabra 2000, which was recently eliminated from the Louis Vuitton Challenger Series.

About four years ago, some enthusiastic sailors and entrepreneurs from the mainland approached the members of the Waikiki Yacht Club. Their proposal was to form a syndicate to win the Cup and bring it to the world's best sailing venue, Hawaii.

Keep in mind that America's Cup campaigns are very, very expensive - about $30 million. So fund raising becomes a syndicate obsession.

BECAUSE our state, with it's flat economy, wasn't seen as a fruitful place to attract sponsorship dollars, it was roundly agreed that the WYC would merely be the challenging club of record. The Aloha Racing Team, as the syndicate was called, would look for major funding elsewhere.

At the time, I suggested that the Aloha Racing Team might also establish a relationship with our state's children by giving talks and demonstrations at their schools, and having a "Name the Boat" contest to attract community involvement. I felt that in Hawaii, where sail racing isn't a major sport, such a program might lead to a more broad-based support group over time, and local corporate interest would follow.

Soon, though, mainland corporate sponsorship came on board - primarily HealthSouth and its lead surgeon/sailor Dr. James Andrews - and the leadership of Aloha Racing began to change. It reminded me of the old saying about the Golden Rule, "He with the gold, makes the rules."

Dr. Andrews' OneDesign 48 boat, Abracadabra, became the team training platform and, ever so slowly, the name Aloha Racing Team began to fade. Like magic, Abracadabra 2000 took its place and any idea of having Hawaii's children name the two Cup boats was, no longer a consideration.

IN retrospect, the name transformation was probably just a matter of time anyway because, after the Hawaii Tourist Authority denied funding for the program, the syndicate's waning aloha became very apparent.

So now, after the two Wyland-painted Abracadabra 2000 boats have been eliminated from contention, I find it somewhat curious to receive a press release describing the team's involvement in bringing together New Zealand schoolchildren to paint ocean-theme murals as part of the "Wyland Foundation's Ocean Mural Challenge."

"Wyland's Ocean Mural Challenge presented us with an excellent way to involve Auckland-area schoolchildren, not only in the America's Cup, but in the preservation of the world's oceans that we sailors value so highly," said team fitness trainer Danielle MacInnes. "Abracadabra 2000 may be leaving Auckland, but a very positive part of us will be left here for the people of New Zealand."

I hope you can understand why I found the news somewhat stunning.

What if they had made the same effort here?

Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu.
His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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