SAILING: Remarkable Pact recovery

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The Independent Online
In an amazing comeback, the accident-prone Kevin Mahaney's Pact '95 was in trouble again yesterday before turning a 2min 09sec deficit into a 1:46 win over the final two legs against Dennis Conner in the Citizen Cup defender trials for the America's Cup in San Diego.

Having built a lead of nearly two minutes over Stars & Stripes on the first leg, the Young America crew fluffed their gennaker handling at the end of the second, wrapping it and the halyard round one of the mast spreaders, and the old master sailed past and away.

To recover so much ground, even in the softening and so flukey breeze, speaks volumes for the speed at Pact's disposal and must send shivers down the spines of both rival defenders and aspiring challengers.

John Bertrand's race in oneAustralia against Nippon Challenge had hardly begun before it was over. A strut inside the mast broke, leading to instant retirement, and Tag Heuer duly banked the points from the Spanish, who have not yet won a race, Chris Dickson beating Pedro Campos by one of the biggest margins on record, 15min 4sec in the new class of yachts.

San Diego seems perpetually to come up with the unusual, but the appearance of an aircraft carrier on the start line on Saturday caused more than a flutter in the hearts of both authorities and competitors on the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger course.

It might have done the same for the contenders on the Citizen Cup defender course if they could have seen it, but such was the thickness of the fog rolling in off the Pacific, which gave rise to the close encounter, that they were spared the fear.

Quite how the technological might of the the US Navy and the patrolling US Coastguard were rendered so ineffective has yet to be explained. It was enough to force cancellation of all races except for one that had already started between Team New Zealand and France. TNZ's skipper, Russell Coutts, had the better of Marc Pajot's new France 3 at the start, survived a jammed spinnaker hoist and won by 1:16.

LOUIS VUITTON CUP: Round Robin 2, Race five: Tag Heuer (NZ) bt Bayona-Valencia 15min 4sec; Nippon Challenge bt oneAustralia, retired.

CITIZEN CUP: Team Dennis Conner bt Pact '95, 1:46.

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