Dennis Conner

The man New Zealanders love to hate has been changing his tune of late. However it must be said he has an up hill battle to convince New Zealanders to forgive him. Calling a nation's heroes, losers and cheats does not seem to be a good way of making friends in that country. Besides my bet is he is trying to win moral support from New Zealand to bolster his campaign. Make up your own mind.

What is Stars and Stripes up to?
We've kept a low profile from sponsorship announcements. But we're about as far along as the others. We've been sailing with a core group of people in San Diego on our America's Cup boat US34 from the 95 defence.

What are you thoughts on boat design?
We've started basically from the black boats. They showed us the way with a long narrow boat, opposed to our 95 boat which was too wide and stiff. You will need to build a heavier boat for the first round in the spring and then go to a light boat for the semi-finals. I don't think there will be a chance for a far out boat, because of money, time and you can only have two boats.

Are Team New Zealand your favourites?
They have a big edge going in with the same momentum they rightfully earned in San Diego. They've been testing different bows on the black boats, they've continued to work on their sail development. At this point the defenders would still have to be the strong favourites.

What of the challengers?
It's really down to the money. Without it you can't work on the design. Some have a head start, those who were funded first. Prada has got to be the pick of the litter. I think the Italians will be quite formidable, they have to be on the top of the list from the challengers standpoint. They have (designer) Doug Peterson who knows the theory behind the black boats. The New York Yacht club got a running start as the Challenger of Record. They have arguably the finest boat designer in the world in Bruce Farr.

What do you think of the cup village?
I was a little concerned whether the basin plans would come to fruition. But I don't really see any glitches now. This place is going to catch the attention of the public world wide. Win or lose, Auckland willcome out ahead in the long run. It will be like inner city Baltimore and what they did with their ballpark.

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