Dennis Conner, the U.S. yachtsman New Zealanders love to hate, today congratulated millionaire banker Michael Fay for the court victory that snatched the America’s Cup from the San Diego Yacht Club.
Lapsing into New Zealand slang, a tired Conner told Fay: “It’s appropriate to say, ‘Good on you, mate.’ Congratulations, Michael, the team and New Zealand.”
Conner was skipper for the San Diego Yacht Club when it successfully beat off a challenge led by Fay for sailing’s biggest prize off the California coast last September.
For months the two men fought a bitter legal battle for the trophy, which ended this week when the New York Supreme Court, ruling that San Diego had violated race rules, awarded the cup to New Zealand. The San Diego club is considering whether to appeal the ruling.
The archrivals successfully papered over any bitterness as they smiled and shook hands before the media at Fay’s Auckland headquarters.
“You can appreciate as an American I’m pretty disappointed and upset about the decision,” Conner said.
“Three and a half years of my life went into returning the America’s Cup to America, and I didn’t like the way this worked out.” Conner successfully won the cup back from Australia off Fremantle in 1987.
3rd Round Coming
An equally diplomatic Fay said: “From the Kiwi point of view, it was round one in Fremantle to you, round two in San Diego to us and round three is going to be hard, too.” New Zealand will host the next challenge off Auckland in 1991.
Conner first angered New Zealanders at the San Diego races when the Californians fielded a nimble catamaran against the New Zealanders’ giant sloop. The New York judge described this as a gross mismatch.
“I’m racing in a cat, you’re racing in a dog,” Conner said at the time among a series of disparaging remarks that made him probably the most unpopular man in New Zealand.
Conner’s trip to Auckland was planned long before anyone knew that it would coincide with the court decision. He is filming a commercial for a board game based on sailing.
Meanwhile today, a Greenwich, Conn., yachtsman issued a challenge for the America’s Cup. Al Constantine, a Greenwich resident who designs and builds yachts at his Norwalk-based company, Offshore Yachts, submitted the challenge to the Mercury Bay Boating Club of Auckland, New Zealand, the Greenwich Time newspaper reported in a copyrighted story today.
Constantine is a veteran sailor who once held the transatlantic speed record. He submitted the challenge on behalf of the Independence Challenge Group, which is made up of 12 area business executives who will sale out of the Ischoda Yacht Club of Norwalk.