After nearly a year of sticking to their historic game plan, the first all-female America's Cup entry today abandoned principles and brought a man aboard.

The crew of Mighty Mary took on Cup veteran David Dellenbaugh as tactician and starting helmsman for today's opening race of defender semifinals against Young America. The move fell flat as Mighty Mary made more of the same tactical and sail-handling errors that have plagued the women all season and lost by 32 seconds.

The win gave fleet leader Young America, relaunched today after a week of hurried repairs to its damaged bottom, three points in the eight-race semifinals, including two carried over for winning preliminary trials. The loss left Mighty Mary with none. The women likely must win five of seven remaining races to survive to the finals next month.

They came close today, trailing by just 21 seconds halfway through the race, but ripped their spinnaker during a gybe and lost about eight boat lengths before getting a new sail up. They fell 1 1/2 minutes behind, then rallied to gain a minute back before running out of race course.

A strong start by Dellenbaugh put Mighty Mary briefly ahead early on, but the women lost the lead when their new tactician let Young America slip out alone to the left side of the race course, where stronger breeze gave the men a lead they never relinquished.

It wasn't the sort of tactical help the women hoped for from the bookish, red-bearded Dellenbaugh, successful tactician aboard Mighty Mary's Cup-winning predecessor, all-male America3, in 1992.

The decision to put him aboard came Friday night at a meeting of team leaders and multimillionaire syndicate chief Bill Koch, who said the idea originated with team members, not him. "We asked, What are our objectives? Why are we here?' " said Koch. "We decided we were here to win, they decided on Dave Dellenbaugh for tactician and I went along."

The women have struggled in two months of racing against the two all-male defense entries and face elimination if they don't drastically improve their race record, 5-15 entering the semifinals.

Team captain Dawn Riley, the only team member with any Cup experience, said the string of losses was painful. "You get tired of hearing, You didn't win but that's okay. You'd rather say, We won.' "

Said skipper Leslie Egnot, "Everyone on the team wants to win. I want to say we tried everything we could. We worked on our strength and we worked on boathandling, but no one on the team had the experience of a David Dellenbaugh."

The switch sparked criticism elsewhere. "Everything they worked for is gone," said Donna North, editor of Sea Horse magazine in Britain and a veteran dinghy sailor. "It's ridiculous. They haven't got a women's team and they haven't got a winning team. They have nothing.

"If they do win," she said, "the world will say one man made the difference. It just shows that they're panicking."

Team spokesperson Sandra Bateman said there was no panic, only resignation that the team needed male input to succeed. "They're in this because they want to win, and the one thing they can't get is a woman aboard who has America's Cup experience, because there aren't any.

Koch joked that Dellenbaugh, who publishes a yacht-racing newsletter and was the 1992 Thistle world champion, was not brought on for "reasons you'd normally attribute to the differences between men and women.

"We've got 16 crew, 15 are women, and the weakest member {in terms of physical strength} is a man," he said of Dellenbaugh, who smiled sheepishly.

"But this women's team with David Dellenbaugh aboard can win the America's Cup," said Koch.

Koch frequently promised in the early days of the women's campaign that he would never put men aboard. He said that before changing his mind, "I contacted a number of strong women including a former governor of Kansas," his home state, "and every one said, 'The women have to win. Do whatever it takes.'"

Dellenbaugh, who has frequently coached the women during the last year, spoke at a sailing seminar Friday but gave no hint of the impending change.

He seemed resigned to an early departure from Cup competition for the women, saying, "It's a shame that they'll be judged not by how far they've come, but by how far they still have to go."

He replaced starting helmsman and tactician JJ Isler, who may return to the boat, team spokesman Sandra Bateman said. "JJ is still very much a part of the team and is standing by."