Dennis proves no menace to Young America


SAN DIEGO -- Dennis Conner's Stars and Stripes and PACT '95 raced yesterday for the first time in the defender trials for the America's Cup -- and the four-time winner took a licking, while Young America kept right on ticking.

Young America, PACT '95's entry in the Citizen Cup eliminations, has beaten Conner once and America3, the women's team, twice.

In the closest race yet in either the challenger or defender trials, Young America appeared to sail higher and faster than Stars and Stripes on all points.

"So much for the reports that Stars and Stripes is a downwind racer," said PACT '95 sailing coach Ron Rosenberg. "Today was their chance to chase a real rocket around the course."

On an 18.55-nautical mile course on the Pacific Ocean off Point Loma, Team Dennis Conner (1-2) challenged Young America (3-0) only twice, on the first downwind leg and on the second beat to weather.

"The team really stepped up to the plate today to win this race," said Rosenberg. "After our problems with the tornado and the wind damage in our first race, I don't think anyone would have thought we would be 3-0, or that win No. 3 would come this easily against Team Dennis Conner."

Although the margin of victory was only 18 seconds, Young America skipper Kevin Mahaney sailed a superior tactical race.

Young America won the start by four seconds and chose to sail to the left side of the course, forcing Conner to sail right for cleaner air.

At the first crossing of tacks, a third up the leg, Young America had built a lead of two to three boat lengths. By the top of the leg, Conner trailed by 1 minute, 9 seconds.

But while Young America set a smallish spinnaker, Stars and Stripes set the largest chute in its inventory. With the larger sail up, Conner gained on Young America and cut its early lead in half.

Mahaney said that although the call was for a larger spinnaker, a smaller sail was set by mistake. Toward the end of the leg, with Conner gaining, Young America switched to a larger sail.

On the second beat, Young America again took the left of the course while keeping a loose cover on Team Dennis Conner and forcing it to sail mostly on the right side, where the breeze was lighter.

The wind was from the northwest and ranged from 5 to 12 knots.

As the breeze freshened slightly midway up the second windward leg, Conner initiated a tacking duel, hoping that Young America's crew would falter. It didn't and rounded the mark with a half-minute lead.

Mahaney said that Conner's crew seemed to be tacking more efficiently, but whatever gains it made were offset by Young America's superior mark roundings.

On the second downwind leg, Young America set a spinnaker large enough to match Conner's and managed to hold its lead.

On the last two legs, Young America sailed carefully, and Conner struggled to close the gap.

"This is quite a day for us," said Rosenberg. "From a little office in Bangor, Maine, to the America's Cup trials off San Diego. From a dream to a defeat of Dennis Conner."

Yesterday's races were delayed 45 minutes while the sea breeze came in and settled.

Young America and Stars and Stripes sail again today. America3 has the day off.

In the only challenger race yesterday, Team New Zealand ran its record to 4-0 by defeating oneAustralia by 1 minute, 36 seconds.

The two other races failed to finish their first legs within the 50-minute time limit and will be rescheduled.

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