SAILING Conner cracks under pressure

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The Independent Online
SAILING

STUART ALEXANDER

reports from San Diego

The pressure match of the series - again? some people were sighing - was set up for the defence trials in the America's Cup yesterday. Dennis Conner was beaten by 52 seconds by Kevin Mahaney's Pact '95 in one of two chances he has to secure the defence berth for himself.

That made the score Conner and Pact five, the women of America3 four. Conner meets Cubed today. If he wins he is through. If he loses he is out and the other two sail off for the honour.

The comeback by Conner has been remarkable enough, but he could justly feel that the gods were against him yesterday.

Paul Cayard again controlled the start, and he secured the right-hand end of the line and pushed Mahaney over with less than 20 seconds to go. But Mahaney wriggled back, the tactician John Kostecki attacked back and made ground, and then sheer boat speed ground them ahead.

On the first run, Conner suckered Mahaney into a dummy gybe, sending him off to the left believing the right would be favoured, and then saw Mahaney profit again.

Ashore, the merry-go-round of guns to the head continued, promising further wheeling and dealing before the final defender format is agreed.

Pact '95, having agreed the final format allowing all three boats, under the additional persuasion of Bill Koch giving his boat to Dennis Conner to sail, has been having some of their own back.

They have been tuning up with America3 in the hope that this would help them beat Conner and keep both themselves and the women's crew, who were invited en masse to a barbecue by Pact on Sunday, in the game. Today, the role is reversed and the fate of the Pact syndicate is in the hands of America3.

After that, they are at each other's throats in a sudden-death sail off, scheduled for tomorrow. It just cannot come soon enough, and would have happened anyway if Cubed had not agreed to keep Conner in on the day they won their other do-or-die match against him in the semi-finals.

CITIZEN CUP Final: Race 11: Pact '95 beat Stars & Stripes, 52sec. Standings: 1=, Stars & Stripes, Pact '95, 5pts; 3, America3, 4.

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