Conner to fore as Koch loses fizz

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Dennis Conner was making a last-ditch attempt to avoid going out of the America's Cup against the 15-women and a man on Bill Koch's America3 in the first of two knock-out races to find the US defender of the 1995 America's Cup last night.

Leaving behind the on-shore wrangling, Conner's Stars & Stripes and Koch's Cubed lined up for their postponed race in typical Point Loma conditions: nine knots of swinging breeze. If Conner won, the defence berth would be his; if he lost he was out, leaving Cubed to sail off today against their collaborators of the past few days, Kevin Mahaney's Pact '95.

Once again Conner's helmsman, Paul Cayard, was able to put Stars & Stripes on the side of the line they wanted, the left, and to push Cubed's starting helmsman and tactician, Dave Dellenbaugh, over the line. But Stripes had crossed the start, too, and they were forced to gybe at the buoy end of the line 24 seconds behind. They were only able to reduce that margin by four seconds as the wind softened to six knots.

Koch's craft, the faster of the two boats, extended the lead down the first run to 27 seconds, and they now had control of the left side of the course. From that point on it was cut and dried until a dramatic final leg that saw Stripes close a four-minute gap.