As hot winds from the desert sent tempertures soaring for the second straight day here on Monday, tempers flared and the designer of the monohull New Zealand said it might take "an act of God" for his team to win the America's Cup on the water.
Designer Bruce Farr predicted his 132-foot monohull challenger would take an hour longer to get around the Cup course in average winds than Dennis Conner's defending catamaran, Stars & Stripes.
With just two days to go before racing begins, members of Conner's team didn't disagree by much, saying the huge monohull looks slower than they expected and suggesting design flaws were to blame.
Fur began to fly.
"It's rubbish," said Farr. "They're just trying to bolster their (court) case by implying it's not that they're too fast (for a fair competition), but we're too slow."
The flareup came after Stars & Stripes co-designer Bruce Nelson said New Zealand hadn't lived up to computer speed predictions.
Nelson said Farr may have rushed too fast in his design work.
"When the boat first came out, they said they only had six days to design it," he said. "You hear that all the time in this business. But when I saw the boat I started to believe it."
Clay Oliver, speed predictor for the Conner camp, said that, based on his computer findings, "We keep getting the feeling New Zealand should be going faster downwind. So we're either in for a big surprise on Wednesday or they're slower than we thought."
"If Nelson thinks it's a bad design, why didn't he come up with a better one" for a monohull defender instead of a 6,000-pound catamaran?
"Our boat scared them enough to take a big risk" by defending in a cat, said Farr, "and the risk is still there."
The dispute goes to the core of the raging legal battle between Stars & Stripes and New Zealand: whether a catamaran is a fair match against a monohull for the best-of-three series that starts off Point Loma at noon (PDT) Wednesday. Farr said Stars & Stripes' potshots are aimed at an ensuing court fight over the catamaran's legality.
He said the cat's clear speed advantage guarantees lopsided victory. But if Stars & Stripes can convince Judge Carmen Ciparick in New York State Supreme Court that the edge is due to New Zealand's flaws rather than the cat's inherent performance advantages, it boosts the defender's case.
New Zealand syndicate chief Michael Fay has vowed to carry the question to Ciparick's court after the regatta ends. In July, she ordered the race to go on, reserving the right to hear arguments later on the legality of the cat.