Conner succumbs

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The Independent Online

Defeat for Dennis Conner at the not always gentle hands of the all-woman crew on America3 is less of a sensation than it was on the opening day of the 1995 America's Cup. But Wednesday's victory, by 1min 26sec, it says that either they have been running a pretty successful development programme on their 1992 boat, or Conner's 1994 Stars & Stripes has not made the giant leap forward he had hoped.

The A3 camp will be putting out extra flags tomorrow to welcome their new 75-foot yacht. Speculation has it that it is another "skinny lizzy" of the type produced by Bruce Farr for Chris Dickson's Tag Heuer challenge. Certainly the syndicate boss, Bill Koch, has claimed it will be radically different from the formula he produced to win in 1992 and which has influenced many of the syndicates.

Comparisons over the relative strength of development between the defenders and challengers are difficult to make, but the ease with which Team New Zealand continues to breeze through the round-robin stage could, if anything, be counter-productive.

They opened the third series of the Louis Vuitton Cup with a win over Nippon Challenge and have yet to be beaten. There was no surprise in the way their Kiwi rival, Dickson, disposed of Spain's Pedro Campos.

But the French were already losing to Sydney '95, now with Colin Beashel added to the afterguard squad, before they ripped a spinnaker and lost distance. With four points for a win in this round, Marc Pajot's quest for a semi-final place is now in earnest and the weakest of the two Australian challengers should have been a banker.

CITIZEN CUP Round-Robin Three, Race One: America3 bt Stars & Stripes by 1 min 26sec. Standings: =1 Stars & Stripes, 9pts; =1 Young America, 9; 3 America3, 7.

LOUIS VUITTON Round-Robin Three, Race One: Sydney 95 bt France 3, 38sec; Team New Zealand bt Nippon Challenge, 1min 34sec; NZL-39 bt Rioja de Espana ,2:30. Standings: 1 Team New Zealand, 20pts; 2 NZL-39, 17; 3 oneAustralia, 13; 4 Nippon Challenge, 10; 5 Sydney 95, 8; 6 France 3, 7; 7 Rioja de Espana, 0.