Defending America's Cup champion Dennis Conner said when he finished racing today he was looking around for the selection committee to declare him the official defender of the Cup, "but I don't see them coming."
Conner and his new 12-meter yacht Liberty defeated their only remaining rival for the right to defend, Courageous, by 26 seconds in a 16-mile trial race in light airs on Rhode Island Sound.
After a troubled start in the final selection trials, which began Aug. 16, Liberty has rallied in the last few days, taking four of six races from Courageous since the third U.S. contender, Defender, was dismissed by the selection committee. Now Courageous' departure is beginning to seem imminent.
Meantime, in the final best-of-seven-race series to select a foreign challenger, Australia II rebounded from her surprising loss to Britain's Victory '83 on Wednesday with a resounding, 4-minute 53-second thrashing of the British boat. That series is now even, 1-1.
On the American course, Conner made a bad start that gave Courageous a 25-second lead but piloted Liberty back ahead. Liberty made up time going upwind to the first mark and was 14 seconds behind at the turn. She took the lead going downwind on the next leg and did not relinquish it.
John Bertrand, Courageous' tactician, said his crew set too small a spinnaker on the first downwind leg, lost time shifting to a bigger sail and then gybed badly, "and that popped him (Conner) out in front."
Bertrand said he wasn't surprised to hear Conner has begun watching for the selection committee, which makes a formal ritual out of choosing the defender. "The last two days have been pretty good for Liberty," he allowed.
A defender must be named by Sept. 8. Cup races start Sept. 13.
"When we win a race we (Courageous' crew) say, 'Well, we've kept them (the selection committee) away today.' When we lose, we start looking around," Bertrand said.