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Americas Cup Yacht Sinks

01 August 2002

One of Dennis Conner's $5 million America's Cup racing yachts sank in the Pacific Ocean about a mile off shore Tuesday, the Coast Guard said.

All sailors aboard the 80-foot yacht were rescued. A salvage crew with a crane and air bags was headed to the scene, said Cathy Harvey, who works for Conner at his Long Beach compound. The boat was below the surface, with only a portion of the mast sticking out of the water, both Harvey and Coast Guard Lt. Jeanne Reincke said.

The yacht sank around 1:10 p.m. in 55 feet of water after the rudder broke and left a hole that was too big for pumps and air bags aboard the boat to stop, said Bill Trenkle, a member of Conner's crew since 1980. ``All the guys are fine,'' Harvey added.

The 59-year-old Conner has won the America's Cup four times, but not since 1988. He's also lost it twice. It was Conner's newest boat that sank, Stars & Stripes USA-77. Christened May 26 in Long Beach, it would likely have been his primary racing yacht in the upcoming America's Cup competition. Conner's crew has been training off Long Beach since February for America's Cup trials that begin Oct. 1 in Auckland, New Zealand. It will be Conner's unprecedented ninth appearance in the international competition.

The only other America's Cup yacht to sink was oneAustralia, which cracked in two and sank off San Diego during a challenger series race in March 1995. All 15 sailors were rescued after that mishap. America's Cup contenders can race only one yacht at a time. Conner still has a second boat, Stars & Stripes USA-66, launched in February, that could compete. Harvey declined to comment on what impact the accident would have on Conner's participation in the America's Cup. The team will not know the extent of the damage until the boat is recovered and examined, she said.






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