Conner takes Cup lead

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The Independent Online
And the last shall be first. Having come so close to being eliminated from the contest to defend the America's Cup for the United States, that hardiest of warriors, Dennis Conner, forced his way into the lead of the Citizen Cup yesterday with five points to Pact '95's four and America3's three. That is if Conner survives a protest from America3 over changes to his boat, writes Stuart Alexander from San Diego.

Once again Paul Cayard focused brilliantly on securing the end of the start line he wanted, the right, despite his Stars & Stripes' crew working feverishly to remove a broken hydraulic vang strut which holds down the mainsail boom.

Sure enough the seven to 10 knot breeze was swinging in direction to the right and Cayard was perfectly positioned to take Stars & Stripes into a 48-second lead around the top mark.

By then his crew had rigged a rope and turning block arrangement to control the boom and, though the official timekeepers gave a slight gain to Cubed on the first run, Stripes had in fact added 10 seconds to their lead.

The 15 women and a man on Bill Koch's boat hoping to repeat his successful defence of 1992 then had troubles of their own with one of the beefy winches that wind in the headsail control lines, but they pulled back 40 seconds on the second beat and two more on the second run. But they again sailed a poorly judged, tired third beat, allowing Conner to extend his lead to a minute for the run home.

Conner has won five of six starts in the final, and the Cubens have to beat Pact today to stay in the game. If Conner wins again tomorrow, he could clinch the defence berth.

CITIZEN CUP, Final, Race 9: Stars & Stripes bt America3, 1min 2sec. Standings: 1 Stars & Stripes, 5 pts; 2 Pact '95, 4; 3 America3, 3.

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