Sailing: Conner enters the fray for America's Cup

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With 48 hours to tomorrow's deadline for challenges for the America's Cup in New Zealand in 2000, the man who has made the winning and losing of the trophy his life's business, Dennis Conner, has again thrown his hat in the ring, writes Stuart Alexander.

As losing defender to the Kiwis in 1995, he will again represent the Californian city of his birth, but instead of competing on behalf of the San Diego Yacht Club, Conner has mounted the challenge through the lesser- known Cortez Racing Association.

The $200,000 (pounds 125,000) deposit has been paid but no details of any major backers have been announced. It is thought, however, that Conner may continue his association with the Auckland-born Chris Dickson, who will co-skipper for him the Toshiba entry in the Whitbread Race starting in September.

Dickson was skipper of New Zealand's first challenge for the Cup, in Fremantle in 1987, but was beaten by Conner in an acrimonious Louis Vuitton Cup final to find the ultimate challenger. Since then, Dickson has not represented his country, though he mounted his own challenge, backed by Tag Heuer, in 1995.

Russell Coutts will continue to skipper the Kiwi defence, having won so crushingly in 1995 as the challenger.

The Boston to Guernsey Challenger race, due to start tomorrow, has all but been abandoned as there is only one entry for the Royal Ocean Racing Club-inspired event.

The Whitbread 60 Swedish Match, skippered by Gunnar Krantz, will make the voyage and attempt to set a record time, but there are no other competitors.

Mike Golding's Group 4 continues to lead leg five of the BT Challenge as the 14 yachts make slow progress in light winds from Cape Town to Boston. Richard Merryweather, in Commercial Union, is second and Chris Tibbs, in Concert, third.