SAILING : Koch aims to outstrip Conner's Stripes

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The Independent Online
Barring calamities, there are now three races in the Louis Vuitton Cup and two in the Citizen Cup in which to decide the final two challengers and defenders for the 1995 America's Cup.

John Bertrand's oneAustralia could afford to lose their second semi-final yesterday against Chris Dickson's Tag Heuer as long as they win the remaining two races. But to lose a second time would be a psychological blow, very much to be avoided.

It is tomorrow's $40m (£25m) clash between Bill Koch's America3 and Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes that is exercising the pundits here. That sum is the total of what is thought to have been spent by the two syndicates. Koch says he has pushed his budget up to $25m, but he could be understating the cost. Conner put his budget at $15m, but may not have spent that much.

One of them is going out before reaching the defender finals and there is no doubt that both the leading defence syndicate, Kevin Mahaney's Pact '95, and the challengers would rather it was the unpredictable Koch. It is not the formerly all-woman crew that is the problem. It is his all- men design team that is the threat. Having blown the chance of beating Conner last Friday, and shown little edge before losing to Pact on Saturday, Koch's team must now beat Conner tomorrow to be sure of staying in contention. It will be a question of whether guile in a slower boat can beat navety in a faster boat.

The prospect of an all-New Zealand final in the challenger series is something that makes the Kiwis rejoice (their Prime Minister, Jim Bolger, called in at the weekend to wish them well) but will be riveting only to a small audience until there is the prospect of the United States losing the Cup again.

At least a trans-Tasman confrontation would spread the fireworks geographically.

CITIZEN CUP Semi-final Day 8: Pact '95 bt America3, 47sec. Standings: 1 Pact '95, 5pts; 2 Team Dennis Conner, 2; 3 America3, 1.

LOUIS VUITTON CUP Semi-final Race 5: Team New Zealand bt Tag Heuer, 1min 44sec; oneAustralia bt Nippon Challenge, 1min 39 sec. Standings: 1 TNZ, 5 pts; 2 Tag Heuer, 3; 3 oneAustralia, 2; 4 Nippon Challenge, 0.