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Should Conner borrow crew, too? AMERICA'S CUP


SAN DIEGO -- America's fastest boat with the best crew sounds like a winning combination, but it's not working out that way.

With Team New Zealand leading 3-0 and needing victories today and Saturday to take the America's Cup, some contend that Dennis Conner didn't go far enough in borrowing PACT 95's Young America -- maybe he should have borrowed a few of the crew, as well.

PACT 95 president John Marshall said: "From a practical point, are [they] getting the boat up to full speed? Sometimes yes, sometimes no."

The problem, Marshall said, has been that despite intense indoctrination by key members of Young America's crew, Conner's Stars & Stripes crew isn't familiar enough with the boat.

"For conditions in which Young America is really good, the first race Saturday was very winnable," Marshall said. "Unfamiliarity with the mast-mainsail combination was a significant problem. The setup didn't look fast, and it wasn't fast, and that's the same mast-mainsail combination we've used in many races in exactly those conditions, and the sail always looked great, set up well and the boat went well."

Young America designer Bruce Nelson, mainsail trimmer Andreas Josenhans and headsail trimmer Grant Spanhake are among 13 PACT 95 members helping Conner's crew. They're on the boat for pre-race setups, follow the races in a chase boat to note sail trim, and de-rief with the crew afterward.

"They've been great," Stars & Stripes tactician Tom Whidden said, "and the boat's definitely performing better than our boat did."

But it's not the same as having them aboard during a race, an option Marshall initially suggested to Whidden.

"There might be one or two people that could come into the boat and help settle things down," Marshall said. "The counter to that proposal is that a team like Dennis' is a very tight-knit group, and they've earned the right to sail together in the Cup."

But after the second defeat, Marshall said: "I spoke to Tom and said, 'Look, I think you ought to think very seriously about it.' "

Marshall and the PACT 95 people realize that the thought of Conner disrupting his crew is a delicate issue -- "What a team is about," Josenhans said.



Race 4: Today; Race 5: Saturday; Race 6*: Sunday; Race 7*: Tuesday; Race 8*: May 18; Race 9*: May 20.

*-If necessary. TV: ESPN

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