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America's Cup Trials : Conner Loses to British; He Blames the Light Winds

November 12, 1986|From Staff and Wire Reports

FREMANTLE, Australia — Whatever it was, Dennis Conner felt, it wasn't sailing.

On a Tuesday when continuing light winds reduced the America's Cup trials to a seascape, the Stars & Stripes skipper from San Diego lost a frustrating match to Britain's White Crusader by 2 minutes 18 seconds.

The wind was so weak that a Canada II crewman went water-skiing behind his tender while the committee delayed the races for 2 hours 15 minutes. Then the course was shortened from 24.5 to 10.5 miles, eliminating five of the eight legs. Conner's camp thought they should have forgotten about it altogether.

"It wasn't in the spirit of America's Cup trials," said Stars & Stripes spokesman Robert Hopkins. "This race could have easily been postponed."

But White Crusader skipper Harold Cudmore, fortified with new light-air sails, wasn't bothered a bit. The shortened course only meant his boat won by a smaller margin, he said.

The wind built to about 10 knots by the finish, but by then Conner was too far behind to catch up.

Helmsman Chris Law of White Crusader said: "We don't want to get overly excited about the win, but it was an important psychological barrier. Conner is a big man."

The loss was the third second-round setback for Conner, dropping him further behind the top two boats, New Zealand and America II, which won their races Tuesday. White Crusader trails third-place Stars & Stripes, 41-38.

Conner has said that if the winds remain light, his boat could be back in the United States before Thanksgiving. He built his three new boats for strong winds and spent nearly a year tuning them in Hawaii in the heavy conditions he expected to find in Australia.

New Zealand remained five points ahead of America II by beating USA, the San Francisco-based boat skippered by Tom Blackaller, by 1:25. John Kolius sailed America II away from Challenge France by 3:16. New Zealand has 56 points, America II has 51.

In the other races, Eagle edged Italy's Azzurra by 17 seconds, French Kiss defeated Italia by 1:39 and Canada II trounced Heart of America by 4:05.

If the winds remain light, Stars & Stripes may be in trouble again today when it faces Canada II, which showed speed in beating Heart of America. The forecast was for winds of 12 to 16 knots, but forecasts have been unreliable. Conner then faces America II on the final day of second-round racing Thursday.

Eagle's last two races will be against White Crusader and Canada II.

America's Cup Notes There was one surprise in the second round of the defender trials. South Australia defeated Australia III by 2:27 to move into a tie for fourth place with the second of the two Alan Bond syndicate boats. . . . Kookaburra III defeated stablemate Kookaburra II by 1:34 as skippers Peter Gilmour and Iain Murray switched boats, with Gilmour defeating Murray, the man who co-designed both boats and usually skippers Kookaburra III. . . . Australia IV, one point behind Kookaburra III, hammered Steak 'n Kidney, the winless Sydney-based boat, by 5:23. . . . Four crewmen from the defunct Courageous IV campaign were assigned a court date of Jan. 12, 1987, on charges of cutting up the boat's $23,000 mainsail.

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