SAN DIEGO — Dennis Conner suffered another lopsided loss to sailing's version ofa tag team Sunday.
Defiant, the America syndicate's older boat, beat him by 4 minutes, 16 seconds after its new boat had beaten him by6:23 Saturday.
Worse, Stars & Stripes seems to be going slower than it did during the first round of America's Cup defender trials, when it could beat only the obsolete Jayhawk, now retired.
The problem apparently is a new, complex steering system involving a forward rudder and perhaps a radical keel visible in close passes past spectator boats in thepre-start maneuvering.
"They seem to have a little trouble," rival helmsman Buddy Melges said at the post-race news conference. "Watching that thing at the start and all the (disturbed) green water underneath Dennis' boat, I was getting scared to get too close for fear that they might turn the one wheel the wrong way."
Said Conner: "Either the boat doesn't steer the way I would like it to or I haven't learned how to operate it yet. As Buddy said, it's a little scary out there."
Melges compared it to the trouble the late Tom Blackaller first had steering the USA 12-meter, which had fore and aft rudders, during the 1986-1987 America's Cup at Fremantle.
Said Conner: "If it turns out to be fast, I'll love it."
If Conner didn't seem deeply concerned, he explained why.
"You're never really out of it until you've lost four races in (the fourth round in) April," Conner said. "All we'd have to do is win five races in April and we'd be in the finals."