SAILING : Conner earns early stripes oveyr 2

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Whatever the incongruity of the name, Bill Koch's new yacht Mighty Mary, in memory of his mother's nickname, showed that it has pace going upwind, but sail-handling errors and the continued strong performance of Stars & Stripes downwind gave Dennis Conner the opening win in the fourth round of the Citizen Cup.

For once, JJ Isler found herself shut out at the start by Paul Cayard and had to trail over the line 14 seconds behind in a fresh 12 to 16-knot south-easterly. But by the end of the first leg, Leslie Egnot had steered MM to within two boat lengths and come out well in a tacking duel.

A broken fitting on the new yacht's spinnaker pole allowed Cayard to pull away to a 41-second lead but Egnot pulled back 10 going upwind again. With Conner taking over, S & S added 13 on the next run, lost 26 on the third beat and picked up five because of a poor spinnaker hoist going into the final downwind leg.

It was the first time the all-woman crew had not won their opening race of a round robin, not something that was to afflict Russell Coutts in Team New Zealand. On the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger course, all eyes were on his confrontation with Marc Pajot's France 3, sporting a mainsail with panels removed from the lower section just behind the mast and the area saved then added to the more powerful trailing edge of the sail.

It was not enough to stop TNZ, which was far superior upwind, but the other Kiwi, Chris Dickson, was also beating the new Japanese boat on its first outing. The former skipper of the Nippon Challenge seemed to have lost control in the pre-start but successfully called a foul and John Cutler had to do a penalty turn.

CITIZEN CUP Round robin 4: Stars and Stripes bt Mighty Mary, 23sec. Standings: 1 Stars and Stripes 32pts; 2 Young America 25; 3 Mighty Mary 7.

LOUIS VUITTON CUP Round robin 4: Team New Zealand bt France 3, 2min 42sec; NZL-39 bt Nippon, 41sec; oneAustralia bt Rioja de Espana, did not start due to equipment breakage. Standings: 1 Team New Zealand, 45pts; 2 oneAustralia, 38; 3 NZL-39, 34; 4 Nippon Challenge 18; 5 France 3, 15; 6 Sydney 95, 8; 7 Rioja de Espana, 4.

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