Conner faces America3 in defender opener today AMERICA'S CUP

January 12, 1995|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,Sun Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO -- The defender portion of the America's Cup trials opens today, with Team Dennis Conner matched against America3, the first all-women's team to compete in this competition.

A change in scheduling has matched Conner, the most seasoned Cup skipper here, against the women's team for the first three races of the first round.

PACT '95, the defense syndicate based in Bangor, Maine, will not race until Sunday to allow the group to complete repairs to Young America, its new International America's Cup Class yacht, which was damaged during a freak windstorm last week.

PACT '95 originally was scheduled to race tomorrow against Team Dennis Conner.

"All the defense syndicates were amenable to this change for the benefit of the defense effort," said Wytie Cable, defense committee chairman.

But while America3 and Team Dennis Conner were willing to cut TTC skipper Kevin Mahaney's PACT '95 team a break for repairs, once the Maine boat is up and running, the competition should be fierce.

"Hey, we're sorry it happened to them, and right after it happened, we even gave them some materials for repairs," said Dawn Riley, one of the America3 skippers. "But we all have been working toward these races for a long time. Breakdowns are part of this sport, and once we are on the water, look out."

Victories in the first round are worth one point, and members of all three defense syndicates said last week that results of the first round could be misleading.

"You could win all your races in the first round and be only six points ahead," said Jim Brady, navigator of Conner's Stars and Stripes. "One loss in the fourth round [seven points] could offset that."

Victories in rounds 2 and 3 are worth two and four points.

The first round is a warm-up.

America3, for example, won't have its new IACC boat in San Diego until February and will race the first round with a boat built for the 1992 America's Cup.

PACT '95 had its boat in San Diego for three weeks before the windstorm, but had sailed it only seven or eight times before it was damaged.

Conner has had Stars and Stripes sailing since November, but it is unlikely he will pull out the stops when victories are worth one point and there are more than three months before the defender is named.

The defender finals, matching the two boats that score best in the earlier rounds, will be held April 10-22.

"These early rounds especially are for developing boat speed and tactics," said Brady. "Between now and April, each of these boats -- challengers and defenders -- will change a great deal, and what you see in January should not be what you see in rounds 3 and 4 or the semifinals."

The Challenger series begins Saturday, with seven syndicates from five countries competing to meet the defender in the America's Cup match beginning May 6.

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