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AMERICA'S CUP '92 : Defiant Takes Four Consecutive : Sailing: Buddy Melges scores a victory over Koch and Jayhawk.


Buddy Melges put Defiant's roll to four straight victories in the opening defender trials of the America's Cup in perspective Tuesday.

"We had a lovely day today," Melges said after beating boss Bill Koch aboard the older stablemate Jayhawk by 2 minutes, 36 seconds, "but we have the dogs out and we're going to tree the possum tomorrow."

The possum's initials are D.C. and he drives a midnight blue boat called Stars & Stripes.

Melges, who trains hunting dogs back home in Zenda, Wis., was referring to a reporter's suggestion that Dennis Conner hadn't been trying his best in losing both races to Defiant by 1:34 and 3:46--playing possum--while beating Koch's Jayhawk handily by 4:10 and 2:16.

What does it all mean?

"Defiant is a pretty fast boat," Koch said. "We're not surprised by her performance today."

"Good tacks, good crew work," Defiant tactician Dave Dellenbaugh said.

That suggests that basic boat speed--not the helmsmen--is the only difference between the America 3boats. Certainly Koch would like that to be true.

"The crew work on both boats was outstanding," Koch said. "I'm very proud of the entire America 3team."

For the fourth time in six races, the start was delayed Tuesday--this time for 45 minutes--until proper wind settled in.

Then, with 4-5 knots from east of south, Melges followed Jayhawk off the starting line, nose to tail. After several tacks he worked Defiant into a commanding position, and that was that.

It was only the second pass in the six races, the other last week when Conner also passed Koch upwind.

Defiant stretched out to a lead of 2:13 at the end of the first lap. Jayhawk fell into a favorable shift early on the second windward leg to regain 44 seconds, but Melges tacked to cover his opponent and cruised home comfortably.

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