Dennis Conner finally beat America 3 (USA 23), winning Friday's America's Cup defender trial by 1 minute 5 seconds.
It was Stars & Stripes' first victory in seven races against America 3 (USA 23) and ended a four-race losing streak. Conner can clinch second place and a bonus victory for the fourth round starting March 28 by beating Bill Koch's lesser boat, Defiant, today.
The first thing Conner wanted to do when he returned to the dock was to watch his mast fall down again. He plugged in a videotape for his first look at Tuesday's race, during which his world came crashing down around his head as he trailed the same America 3 by only 35 seconds.
" . . ." Conner exclaimed as he watched. "We could have beat 'em in that race, too."
Wednesday, after replacing his mast overnight, Conner lost to Defiant by 23 seconds but sailed without knowing the trim tab on his keel had been jammed from towing the crippled boat home backward the day before.
"Given what we've gone through in this series, it's a great win," Stars & Stripes navigator Lexi Gahagan said.
At the finish, there was a subdued celebration aboard Stars & Stripes--actually, more of a sigh of satisfaction that it is back in the running.
Koch, who steered only part of the first leg, said, "We were getting a little cocky. This is good for us to get beaten up."
Said Conner: "It was great to show that USA 23 is not invincible."
But what about USA 28, the newest boat? Koch hopes to have it sailing within eight or nine days.
Said Buddy Melges of America 3 : 'We saw a little of Dennis at the top of his game out there today--and that's what we want to see."