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A Cut-Rate America's Cup; Book Bargain for World Cup

BILL KOCH wants to shorten the America's Cup. Not the race - the boats. The man whose America3 yacht defeated an Italian entry to win the America's Cup in 1992 and who hopes to defend the cup next May with an all-female crew, wants to reduce the length of competing yachts from 75 feet to 55 feet. That, he contends, will cut the cost of a full-fledged campaign from $50 million or more to about $10 million. This would attract many more competitors, he says. Currently, there are only two other groups in the United States bidding to defend the Cup.

In Australia, meanwhile, two racing syndicates have struck up a friendly relationship in the seaside town of Southport. There, they share a yacht club and testing facilities. Working together, says John Bertrand, should help his boat, One Australia, and Syd Fischer's Sydney '95 drive down costs.

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In previous Cup challenges, Bertrand says, ``noncooperation between Australian syndicates has been crippling in terms of costs. You have a duplication of resources that has forced cutbacks on equipment and yacht servicing, which has eventually manifested itself in losing performances.''

Bertrand skippered Alan Bond's Australia II in 1983, when the US boat - in this case, Dennis Conner's Liberty - relinquished the Cup for the first time in 132 years. Soccer book and chart are a bargain

FOR children interested in following the World Cup soccer tournament that begins Friday, here's a four-star recommendation: ``The Young Soccer Player'' by Gary Lineker.

This has to be one of best-looking World Cup-related products on the market. And at $8.95, it's a bargain.

Two products are actually shrink-wrapped together: a beautifully illustrated, full-color instruction book written by English star Lineker, and a countdown wall chart (25 in. by 31-3/4 in.) with four sheets of self-adhesive team stickers for use in recording World Cup results. (P.S.: Adults wishing to become more conversant with soccer and how the World Cup works will find this a winning package, too.) If there's a better sports buy this summer, please let us know about it. Take yourself out to the ballgame

AN acquaintance says her solo visits to Boston's Fenway Park, even right before Saturday afternoon Red Sox games, often yield good single seats. The ticket office grants that this sometimes happens, but adds that it's far from a certainty.

Most people would rather not go alone, but those who don't mind might find this helpful in considering spur-of-the-moment attendance at professional sports events. Families that must settle for lesser seats might even want to explore the possibility of purchasing one good individual seat to share on a rotating basis an inning or two at a time.

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A related suggestion: When at the ballpark, take a camera. Long after youngsters have forgotten their quest to catch a foul ball, they may enjoy a pictures of themselves taken both inside and outside the park. These photos can only appreciate in sentimental value, and many will take on historical significance as old stadiums are razed and new ones built. Could America's golf boom go bust?

GOLF as public recreation could be on the verge of a crisis, according to the June issue of Golf Digest. New courses are opening up at a high rate (almost one a day in the US last year), but the 22-year high in construction missed the mark in some ways.

The problem, Golf Digest reports, is twofold: not enough courses in heavily populated metropolitan areas, and soaring greens fees that the magazine says threaten to price the game right out of popularity.

John Rooney, a professor at Oklahoma State University who studies the golf industry for Golf Digest, reports that there are 1,860 golfers for every 18-hole course, which can create a logjam on weekends when 465 foursomes may want to play. With the median price of a weekend round at US municipal courses $14, and a weekend guest round at a private course $30, according to the National Golf Foundation, would-be players may think twice. Some experts say that government-sponsored golf projects may hold the key to keeping golf affordable.

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