SAILING: Late attack keeps Conner afloat

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The Independent Online


reports from San Diego

Dennis Conner kept some hope of defend ing the America's Cup in 1995 after a last gasp win over Bill Koch, who he beat in 1992, by only 8sec, to preserve his record of being in a defender or challenger final every time he has competed for the last 20 years.

This time Koch has backed an all-woman team to do the job for him, was fried in the American press recently for adding a man, David Dellenbaugh, to the mix, but in a crucial race yesterday Koch's new boat, Mighty Mary, started by powering away from Conner's Stars & Stripes.

Conner, back in second in the Citizen Cup behind Kevin Mahaney's Pact'95, had managed to sneak ahead at the end of the first spinnaker run but could not hold the 10-second lead in the bumpy conditions and 15-knot westerly, which delayed the Louis Vuitton Cup races by 90 minutes.

But he was able to stay close enough for one final attack on the last spinnaker run. He crept up on Mighty Mary, blanketed the leading boat's breeze, forced a gybing duel and, when the all-woman crew fluffed some sail handling, sailed over the top. Skipper Leslie Egnot was then penalised for barging down, did not take the penalty and consequently was not counted as a finisher. Egnot said they would protest the decision.

CITIZEN CUP, Day 5: Stars & Stipes bt Mighty Mary, DNF. Standings: 1 Pact '95, 4 pts; 2 Stars & Stripes, 2; 3 Mighty Mary, 1.