Round Robin Three has not been kind to Team Dennis Conner in New Zealand. Helmsman Ken Read with Virgin Islander Peter Holmberg in the after guard was off to a good start with a victory over Young Australia, but their luck has changed.
Another great battle with the 'other' Virgin Islands sailors aboard America True went to America True by 30 seconds. Stars and Stripes had a chance on the final downwind leg to catch up when America True shredded a spinnaker, but a replacement was hoisted in time to preserve the lead.
The Japanese Challenge are using their second boat in this round and are showing great boat speed to match the aggressive tactics of skipper Peter Gilmour. In the match against Team Dennis Conner the Japanese team lead slightly off the starting line, and then protected the favored right-hand side of the course to maintain their lead. A steady race by the Stars and Stripes crew kept them in contention until a right-hand favored shift in the second beat sealed the victory for the Japanese.
The fourth day of racing proved a near disaster for Stars and Stripes. Just before the warning signal for Stars & Stripes race against Prada, the aft bulkhead separated from the hull on the American boat and the team was forced to retire. The damage is a serious blow to Team Dennis Conner. Its loss was the third in a row for the Americans and Conner’s crew finds itself in danger of slipping out of the top six.
A press release from Team Dennis Conner showed they didn't plan to give up. At a team meeting Monday morning, Dennis Conner gave an inspiring talk about how well the team has done to this point and after the boat is fixed, they need to keep winning races. "In 1995, we broke our keel, almost sank and had to win five straight races to make it to the America's Cup – and we did it. We will be fine – our boat building team is outstanding – and the rest of our crew is talented enough to overcome this situation. This is not a setback for us," Dennis concluded, "It's just a short delay."
Several teams, especially the Japanese, the Spanish, and the French have shown improvements in this round. There will be no easy races coming up with the exception of the match against the Swiss who have withdrawn from competition due to breaking their only mast. The fight for the sixth (and last) spot to go the semifinals may come down to the last race.


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