SAILING Fresh storm threatens Conner

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The Independent Online
SAILING

STUART ALEXANDER

reports from San Diego

It was all uphill for Dennis Conner yesterday, as he went into a race against Bill Koch's America3 which he had to win to keep Stars and Stripes in the race to defend the America's Cup. It looks as if a $15m (£9.25m) campaign could be tripped up for the lack of a 50-cent blob of Araldite.

The yacht already in the final of the Citizen Cup, Pact '95, had too much speed for him on Saturday. Having had a win over America3 taken away by the jury because his replacement keel was 7mm too shallow, he needed to win yesterday to even the score again at 3-3 and earn a sudden-death sail-off today.

In a tit-for-tat protest, he has complained to the jury chairman, John Doerr, that Pact also changed their boat midway through the semi-finals.

Doerr has spent nearly 24 hours hearing evidence about the Stripes keel change. His reason for not awarding the race to America3 is that he feels the change of keel did not affect the outcome of the race. Stripes could easily have changed back to it earlier if they thought it was faster, but a rule infringment should not go unpenalised.

Adding to the atmosphere of wrangling, the challengers had to listen to an astonishing outburst by their representative, Ernie Taylor. The chief executive of the Challenger of Record committee further upset relations with the defending San Diego Yacht Club, which were already sour. Syndicate members winced as Taylor accused the defenders of "shafting" him.

He was even ready to wade into the protests between the defence syndicates, implying that Dennis Conner was pulling the strings and manipulating club officers. It makes it impossible for the challengers to be represented by their chief executive, and not surprisingly there are calls for his head.

CITIZEN CUP Semi-final Day 12: Pact '95 bt Stars and Stripes 52sec. Standings: 1 Pact '95 9pts; 2 America3 3; 3 Stars and Stripes 2.

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