Conner chased right to the end

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The boat that won so convincingly the 1992 America's Cup made what was probably its last appearance on the San Diego start line yesterday and its all-women crew showed it could still turn in a sharp performance.

Against Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes, they closed the third round- robin of the defender trials by chasing Conner's new boat all the way home.

Conner went off well enough, leading by 43 seconds, but America3 twice came back on the spinnaker runs, cutting the gap to 32 seconds, before finally being worn down and losing by 1min 52sec.

For the next round, the last before the semi-finals, when one of the three rival defender syndicates will be eliminated, there will be a shiny new, lean, mean America3. For the moment, though, America3 is trailing the other two and Conner's win yesterday puts him equal first in the standings with Kevin Mahaney's Pact 95, already making urgent use of the all-too- short break to make changes before racing begins again on 2 March.

Pact, too, had beaten America3 in their last outing, but had to come back from losing the start and the beat up the first leg. As before, Pact was too quick for them downwind and came out best in a gybing duel that took them from 22 seconds behind to 12 seconds in front.

From then on, Mahaney was comfortably in control but the 1min 19sec margin at the finish was more adequate than devastating.

CITIZEN CUP Round Robin 3 (San Diego) Day eight re-run: Stars & Stripes bt America3, 1min 52sec. Standings at end of Round Robin 3: =1 Pact 95, Stars & Stripes, 25pts; 3 America3, seven.