Conner in boat switch

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The Independent Online

The strength of the America's Cup defence, which starts on Saturday, was increased considerably over the weekend, writes Stuart Alexander from San Diego. Dennis Conner, who won the job in Stars & Stripes - designed by Dave Pedrick - decided instead to sail the boat belonging to a rival defence syndicate, John Marshall's Young America, designed by Bruce Nelson.

A month ago the challengers, Team New Zealand, would have been runaway favourites to win the best of nine in five straight and two weeks ago it would still have been 5-1. But Conner's crew, who will all transfer with him is very wily, the defender boats have been improving rapidly, and yesterday one American commentator, Gary Jobson, switched his forecast to 5-3 in Conner's favour.

The defending San Diego Yacht Club could choose any of the three boats bidding for the job but know that the Kiwis may protest the move. In a clumsy, pre-emptive counter they quoted as precedent the quirky example of 1871 when different yachts defended on different days.

Not the stuff of modern, international sport being projected to a worldwide audience. Nor did they address the row over whether the rules should allow the yachts to be modified during the series. With less than a week to go there are still no agreed match conditions.

Simpler, cleaner, and full of exciting short, sharp racing has been the opening in San Francisco of the five-regatta world match racing series for the Faberg Brut Cup.

Both the semi-finals went the distance in the best of five, the world champion Bertrand Pac, of France, finally beating the world No 1, Peter Gilmour of Australia, by four seconds in their decider.

Roy Heiner, of the Netherlands, came through the other semi-final against Thierry Peponnet, also of France.