Cubed on course for the final

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The pressure on Dennis Conner was hiked even further yesterday as the 15 women and one man on America3 inflicted the first defeat of the America's Cup defender semi-finals on Kevin Mahaney's Pact '95.

Twenty-four hours earlier Mahaney's achievement on being the first of the three defence syndicates to make sure of a place in the final had been upstaged by Conner's problems. Now, the great man has to win both his remaining races against Cubed's Mighty Mary, unless he, too, can find some way of beating Mahaney. Otherwise, he is out and the Bill Koch's war machine can rumble into full power.

Principal cause of Pact's downfall, after they had fought tooth and nail to squeeze into the lead rounding the upwind mark at the halfway mark, appeared to be breaking their spinnaker pole. They came back to lead again going into the final leg but could not hold them off.

Conner said yesterday his team would do all they could to take part in today's defender semi-final race, after his Stars & Stripes pulled out of Sunday's race when the Pacific began pouring into the hull through the keel area.

Pumps were quickly put aboard the 75ft yacht, which was towed back to its dock, inspected by divers and then, with the keel supported, hauled out of the water for round-the-clock work to begin.

All was relatively calm on the challenger course, Team New Zealand assuring their place in the Louis Vuitton Cup final after recovering so quickly from a broken headsail halyard that rival Kiwi Chris Dickson's Tag Heuer could not pass them. John Bertrand's oneAustralia went into second place with a throttled back win over Nippon Challenge.

CITIZEN CUP Semi-final Day 4 (replay): America3 bt Pact '95, 38 sec. Standings: 1 Pact '95, 6pts; 2= TDC and America3, 2. LOUIS VUITTON CUP Semi-final Race 7: Team New Zealand bt Tag Heuer, 1:28; oneAustralia bt Nippon Challenge. Standings: 1 Team New Zealand, 7pts; 2 oneAustralia, 4; 3 Tag Heuer, 3; 4 Nippon Challenge, 0.