Conner has last chance

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The America's Cup was put back where it belongs, on the water, as all the protests by the three defence syndicates against each other were either dismissed or withdrawn yesterday. The showdown between Dennis Conner and Bill Koch's mainly women-crewed America3 today will decide the second finalist in the Citizen Cup.

While the two America's Cup challenger finalists in the Louis Vuitton Cup are pouring energy and money into preparing their yachts, the defender candidates are at each other's throats more off the water than on.

Team New Zealand's moans that oneAustralia is practically building a new hull on to the old deck have been as nothing compared with the determination of Conner to nail the finalist already decided, Kevin Mahaney's Pact '95, and Koch to erase Conner.

That was especially so after Conner drew level again at 3-3 by beating Cubed in the resail of the race he first won on the water but then was taken away from him by the jury on the technicality that his replacement keel was just over a quarter of an inch too shallow.

Just to keep everyone guessing a little longer, and reduce further the time available to either Koch or Conner to make changes ahead of revealing their finals format next Monday, the decider could not be sailed yesterday because the coastguard, on behalf of the US Navy, said they wanted to play instead.

TNZ's Alan Sefton said the Aussies were taking advantage of a ruling allowing wholesale changes to a yacht, even though an overall rule says each syndicate can build only two new hulls. "They have got plenty of money, they are reportedly flying in more than a dozen top boatbuilders and they are going for it," he said. "So we are expecting to see what effectively will be another new oneAustralia on the start line." he explained.

CITIZEN CUP: Semi-final Day 9 re-sail: Stars & Stripes bt America3 4min 49sec. Standings: 1 Pact '95 9 pts; 2= Stars & Stripes, America3 3.