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NEWPORT-ENSENADA YACHT RACE : Conner Finishes First, but Competition Is no Breeze


ENSENADA, Mexico — Dennis Conner's 65-foot catamaran, Stars & Stripes, took line honors as the first boat to finish the 43rd Newport-to-Ensenada yacht race Saturday.

In what many sailors called a "slow and boring race," it took Conner 19 hours 55 minutes to sail the 126-mile course. He fell far short of breaking the race record of 10:31 set in 1983 by Double Bullet.

More than 24 hours after the race's start, only eight of the 500 boats that started had finished, according to Jerry North, race results chairman for the Newport Ocean Sailing Assn.

"To give you an idea of how slow it was," North said, "it took Dennis nearly 20 hours to finish this year and last year it took him 14 hours. And that was considered one of our slowest years."

Mitchell Rouse's Taxi Dancer, a monohull in the 70-rater class, finished second in 24:29--nearly five hours behind Conner. "We feel great to be the first monohull (to finish)," said Rouse, who last year was the runner-up in his class. "The race was unpredictable, as usual."

Finishing within a half-hour of each other were five other 70-raters: Roy Disney's Pyewacket, Robert Doughty's Evolution, Don Ayres Jr.'s Drumbeat, Davis Tillsbury's Holua and Steve Petlin's Cheetah. Also among the first eight finishers was Fred Preiss' Christine, the first boat in the IOR class across the line.

Because of handicap rules, trophy and class winners will not be known until race results are computed at 11 a.m. today, when the race is officially over.

North was expecting a larger-than-usual drop-out rate because of the lack of wind, though only 15 boats had quit by late Saturday. "The main fleet may not finish until next Friday," he said.

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