Stars & Stripes skipper Dennis Conner began his East Coast victory lap Sunday night with a private reception at the Naval Memorial Museum here.
Conner and his crew were the guests of Rep. Bill Lowery (R-San Diego), who, along with several U.S. corporations, sponsored the buffet dinner. According to aides to Lowery, the bash for the America's Cup victors was one of the hottest tickets in town.
Originally planned as a gathering for 300, by early Sunday evening the guest list had swelled to more than 500.
Conner and various members of Sail America, including its president, Malin Burnham, were relaxed as they mingled in the crowd of transplanted Californians and Washington politicians.
The affair did not attract any nationally known politicos, in part because it was planned that way and because of concern not to usurp President Reagan's reception for the crew set for today.
In keeping with the low-key theme, no television cameras or news photographers were allowed to take pictures at the reception. A Lowery aide said Conner had been so inundated by media coverage that he wanted Sunday night's party to be solely a social affair without any intrusions.
The party was festive but subdued, without any of the loud celebrating that accompanied the crew's arrival in San Diego on Saturday. Speeches were kept to a minimum. Lowery thanked Conner for his "victory at sea" and lauded him for an achievement that boosted the country's morale.
Conner, as he did in San Diego, stressed that the crew's victory in four straight races over Australia's Kookaburra III was a product of teamwork and that the spotlight should not shine only on him.
The gathering feasted on salmon, roast beef, assorted cheeses and other finger food. The fete took place amid U.S. Navy memorabilia such as sections from Old Ironsides, antique Navy planes and ordnance.