Dickson's chance came when, after rounding the first mark 21 seconds ahead, Stars & Stripes's crew saw the spinnaker they had just set break away from its halyard near the top of the mast and drift, twisting and billowing, into the sea. The damage was repaired in relatively short order but Dickson took advantage of the moment and at the bottom mark led by six seconds. From that point on Dickson held the reins. With a matchless crew to back him up, he countered every ploy in Conner's repertoire. Under three separate barrages of tacks, 132 in all, 55 on the last beat alone, the Kiwis kept their heads and finally won by 38 seconds. According to Dave Philips of The Providence (R.I.) Journal, a veteran Cup watcher who counts tacks with the fervor of a monk at his rosary, only once, in a 1974 race between Courageous and Intrepid, when the legs were 1¼ miles longer than they are now, were as many tacks exchanged in the space of one leg.
After winning the challenge series on Monday, Conner remained at the Stars & Stripes dock until sunset as the younger element in his somewhat overage crew gave each other champagne and Budweiser shampoos (also Pepsi shampoos, Pepsi-Cola being the latest corporate sponsor to jump on the Conner bandwagon). Then he and syndicate president Malin Burnham left for the postrace press conference, where old feuds were forgotten for the moment.
"For all the young guys, Dennis," said Dickson, "have you ever thought about quitting this game?"
"It's satisfying," said Conner. "But we can't lose sight of the real goal here. We've got our work cut out for us."
In 1983 the ousted British challengers helped Australia II get ready for Conner. Now Conner would like the Kiwis, as fellow challengers, to help him tune up for Kooka III. Last week when Dickson was asked his plans should his boat be eliminated, he replied that the New Zealand syndicate would help the Aussies, out of a preference for Fremantle over San Diego as a Cup venue. Other reasons might have been: 1) Conner's behavior in the matter of the fiberglass hull; 2) New Zealand syndicate leader Michael Fay's business interests, many of which are based in Australia; 3) the understandable reluctance of a non-U.S. participant to help send the Cup back to America, when it took 132 years to pry it away the first time.
The question Conner needs help answering is just how fast Kookaburra III is. She is known to be maneuverable, like New Zealand, but if she is as fast as S & S as well as maneuverable, Conner could be in trouble and his braintrust will have to scramble over the next few days for still more milliseconds.
John Bertrand, the skipper who won the Cup in '83 and worked closely with the Australia IV crew in the '87 campaign, believes "Kookaburra III is right in there against Stars & Stripes." An even more important factor, Bertrand feels, is Kooka III's skipper. "The dark cloud on Dennis's horizon is Iain Murray," says Bertrand. "He's only 28 but he's multitalented. Murray is not intimidated by people. He doesn't care one iota about past reputations and what they conjure up in people's minds."
Gary Jobson, Ted Turner's tactician on Courageous in '77, who has spent the Aussie summer covering the Fremantle waterfront for ESPN, thinks Stars & Stripes will be faster in a straight line but will be more vulnerable than Kookaburra III on light-air days, as begin to happen now and then in February. "Conner will have to use his lay-days judiciously to nullify that advantage," says Jobson. "I could see this going six or seven races, you bet."