Sailing: Conner chased home: American sets transatlantic record

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IN RECORD time and scorching style, Dennis Conner yesterday won the Gold Cup Transatlantic race from New York to Southampton. His new, dollars 3m ( pounds 2m) Whitbread 60ft entry, Winston, reached the finish just minutes after midnight, after being pressed all the way by Britain's own 60ft contender, the Dolphin and Youth Project.

While the America's Cup veteran was lopping 10 hours off the record set for sailing from Ambrose Light to the Lizard by Charlie Barr in the 185ft schooner Atlantic in 1905, the 21-year- old skipper Matt Humphries, whose D & Y syndicate was formed from his own youth project and a partially disabled crew, was also beating the record, five hours later.

'Our purpose was to show we were competitive,' a remarkably bright Humphries said yesterday. 'We wanted to show the people in Britain what we could do.

'Soon after the start we were parked in no wind and over the first few days we slipped to nearly 160 miles behind Conner. Then we found some breeze and clawed back, reducing that deficit to 50 miles. Considering how much time we had to spend repairing sails, and so losing valuable speed and distance, we think we would have been pretty close.'

Both Conner and his co-skipper, Brad Butterworth, paid tribute to Humphries' crew. 'Dolphin did a nice job and it appears there wasn't much in it,' Conner said before going home, but he would not say which of the Whitbread legs he may sail when the race starts in September.