More than three weeks after winning a race that counted, Dennis Conn
SAN DIEGO (AP) _ More than three weeks after winning a race that counted, Dennis Conner’s Stars & Stripes sailed out of its slump in spectacular fashion.
The navy-blue boat passed the formerly all-women team aboard Mighty Mary with less than one mile to go for its first victory in three matches in the America’s Cup semifinals Friday.
It was the second straight close race on the defender course, following Wednesday’s 28-second win by Young America over Stars & Stripes.
``Fortunately we weren’t just putting on a nice performance for everybody like we did the other day,″ Stars & Stripes helmsman Paul Cayard said. ``We actually got the point. It was a great race for the defense. Everybody’s getting a lot of practice at tight, close racing.″
Stars & Stripes, which trailed for most of the race, pulled out of a second-place tie with Mighty Mary and trails Young America 4-2 in the Citizen Cup for defenders.
Stars & Stripes had lost five of six races dating to round-robin four, and the one victory in that streak was thrown out when the round was shortened due to weather delays. Its last victory that counted was against Mighty Mary on March 2.
``We’re all a little displeased, without being against the wall, just that we’re losing that many races,″ said Cayard, who steers more and more even though Conner remains on the boat. ``We’re not used to losing. It has everybody’s full attention now.″
The margin was eight seconds, or less than two boat lengths’ separation after 18.55 miles of sailing. But it turned out to be moot when Mighty Mary was disqualified for failing to perform a 270-degree penalty turn for an infraction during the crucial sequence.
Mighty Mary then protested the fact that Stars & Stripes’ non-contributing 17th crew member, San Diego Unified Port Commissioner Frank Urtafun, snapped pictures at the end of the race. Stars & Stripes officials said he was taking pictures of the crew.
The protest was disallowed because America3 flew its protest flag too late after the incident. And even if a jury were to side with America3, it wouldn’t get the one point for victory because technically it didn’t finish the race.
``I think that we’ve learned a hard lesson on that, that you just always do your penalty turn,″ navigator Courtenay Becker-Dey said. ``We crossed the line second, so we didn’t do it.″
Ironically, Dave Dellenbaugh, one of the team’s coaches and a member of the winning crew in 1992, replaced tactician J.J. Isler one week ago to give the team more experience.
Mighty Mary, which has one point, dropped to 1-2 since Dellenbaugh came on board.
Mighty Mary led for most of the race and was 13 seconds ahead as the sailboats turned onto the downwind run to the finish.
Since Stars & Stripes was trailing, it was able to attack and closed to one boat length. When Mighty Mary went on starboard gybe, Stars & Stripes followed, knocked the wind out of Mighty Mary’s spinnaker, caught a big wave and surfed ahead.
In trying to refill its spinnaker, Mighty Mary sailed above its proper course, too close to Stars & Stripes, and was penalized.
The west wind ranged from 12 to 15 knots, and there was substantial swell left over from a storm that forced the postponement of Thursday’s racing.
On the challenger course, Russell Coutts steered Team New Zealand’s Black Magic 1 to gains on all six legs to defeat John Bertrand’s oneAustralia by 2 minutes, 29 seconds.
The other Kiwi boat, Chris Dickson’s NZL-39, fell behind Nippon twice due to equipment problems, but rallied on the final leg to win by 23 seconds.