Dennis Conner was in vintage verbal form, attacking one of his main rivals in the America's Cup
Dennis Conner was in vintage verbal form, attacking one of his main rivals in the America’s Cup, but he will not be sparring with Nippon’s Peter Gilmour, or any of the other yachting challengers, on the water. Conner has confirmed he is unlikely to be on board Stars & Stripes for the six-boat semifinals of the Louis Vuitton Cup which begin on Sunday. He dominated yesterday’s draw for the semifinals, with scathing criticism of Gilmour for sailing one of Nippon’s boats against Team New Zealand.
Conner, famous for his press conference attacks on other sailors and also New Zealand-born designer Bruce Farr who he described as a “loser”, has not been active on Stars & Stripes since the first round robin in October. He sailed just once on the boat in the third round, after the team had already secured a semifinals berth. “I love to sail and there’s nothing I like better to do but I think our best chances of doing well are to stick with the team we have. “I think my highest and best use is to try and give them a little advice and help them when I can, and raise some money to pay the bills, and that’s what I intend to do.” Conner said tactician Tom Whidden, who has sailed with Conner for many years and who arrived in Auckland at the start of the second round, was well in control on the boat. Two of the three two-boat campaigns in the series have announced which boat they will sail in the semifinals though AmericaOne is refusing to say.
Skipper Paul Cayard is expecting to tell officials today he will race their new boat USA61, yet to be seen in any cup racing. Both Prada, the winners of the three round robins, and Nippon, who finished second, are reverting to their older boats. Prada skipper Francesco de Angelis confirmed the first Luna Rossa would return to the water for the semifinals, with the second and newer boat used only in the third round. That boat did not look as swift as the original, and lost twice, against key rivals AmericaOne and Idaten for Nippon. The first Luna Rossa won 19 of its 20 races. De Angelis said the decision to switch back to ITA45 was taken after considerable debate. “There was a lot of thought. “We picked 45 because we think it’s a boat that will fit the kind of racing that we’re going to have starting January 2.” De Angelis said Prada felt the first Luna Rossa would be better for the sailing conditions, and the racing against a variety of boats, indicating ITA45 is probably a better all-round boat than ITA48. Idaten was the fast mover of the third round robin, giving Nippon the most number of points in the round — 72 — and losing just twice.
But for the semifinals the boat will be in the shed undergoing modifications, which have already been completed on Nippon’s first boat Asura. The exact nature of the modifications is not known, but Gilmour must be considerably impressed having earlier announced Asura would be retired, and raced no more in the contest. “I think like all of the two boat programmes you hope to step forward making modifications and changes, and we’ve made quite a positive modification to (JPN) 44 which has seen quite a performance improvement, so it’s only logical to take your best boat into the semifinal series,” Gilmour said. “At the same time, we’ve got similar modifications in hand for 52 and we’ll do that as quickly as we can throughout the semifinal series to get her ready and cranked up for the final series.” The six boats begin the double round robin on Sunday with clean slates, with all the points from the first rounds wiped. Each race is worth one point, and extra races will be held if clear finalists have not been decided at the end of the 10 races. The challenger finals begin at the end of January, with the America’s Cup match in February.