Dennis Conner’s Stars & Stripes continued winning, dealing Kevin Mah
SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Dennis Conner’s Stars & Stripes continued winning, dealing Kevin Mahaney’s Young America its first defeat in America’s Cup Defender yacht racing.
In fading winds that almost calmed the sailing fleet, Stars & Stripes ended the first round-robin of Defender trials Sunday by finishing more than three minutes ahead of Young America.
``I think more than anything the change on Stars & Stripes has been getting everybody in the racing mode,″ said Stars & Stripes navigator Jim Brady.
``We’ve been on the steep vertical part of the learning curve with our boat and we’ll continue that in the next round.″
Four-time America’s Cup champion Conner took turns at the helm with Paul Cayard during the victory. Young America had beaten Stars & Stripes in two races last week and leads the Defenders with five first-round victories.
Stars & Stripes has won three races, including its last two contests.
Racing began Sunday in a 6-knot wind, with a 3-foot swell, and Young America took control early, leading Stars & Stripes by 21 seconds across the start line. But Mahaney misjudged the shifting winds and sailed to the right side of the course.
``We dominated the start and it was embarrassing for our competitor. We parked him at the start,″ said Young America navigator Robert Hopkins. ``Then they embarrassed us by picking the left side of the course and passing us.″
Stars & Stripes headed left into a freshening breeze that lifted the yacht past Young America to a 30-second lead at the first mark.
Under spinnaker, Young America came back to within a boat-length at the second mark, but that was as close as it got all day.
In the tacking duel that followed, Stars & Stripes stretched its lead to more than 1 minute on the next leg. As the winds faded, both yachts changed their headsails to lighter material. The breeze hovered around 2 knots.
Both teams sent crewmen up their masts to search the horizon for a better breeze. In the sloppy yacht racing conditions, Young America couldn’t close the gap.
``The wind got weird, and then it got really weird,″ said Hopkins. ``The type of weirdness favored the leading boat.″
Stars & Stripes limped the final six miles of the course to claim victory. Young America finished 3:09 later.
The first round of Defender racing has been worth one point per victory. When the second round-robin begins on Jan. 29, each victory will count for two points. There are three more Defender round-robins leading to the semifinals on March 18.
The winning Defender will represent the United States in the America’s Cup that on May 6.
On the Challenger course Sunday, two New Zealand syndicates claimed the top two spots on the leader board with victories over Australian teams.
Undefeated Team New Zealand, skippered by Russell Coutts, was comfortably ahead of Sydney 95 when the Australian team withdrew from the race on the final leg because of steering problems.
The other New Zealand yacht, NZL-39, skippered by Chris Dickson, defeated John Bertrand’s oneAustralia by 3:52. Spain’s Rioja de Espana, skippered by Pedro Campos, lost by 3:42 to Marc Pajot’s France 2.
The second round-robin of the challenger trials also begins Jan. 29.