The biggest loser of winners: Mr. America’s Cup, Big Dad Dennis Conner


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Dennis Conner

In the film Wind – Stronger than the Wind, released in 1992 and directed by Carroll Ballard, it was jokingly said that the first skipper of the New York Yacht Club to lose the America’s Cup would have to replace it in the trophy case with his own head. Mr. America’s Cup boss , Big Dad Dennis Conner, stayed in place, and then maybe winning the Cup back after losing it must not have been so bad. The column dedicated to the
America’s Cup cult
with a legendary figure, four-time America’s Cup winner Dennis Conner from San Diego.

Mr. America’s Cup, Big Dad Dennis Conner

Dennis Conner was born in 1942 in San Diego, and his rise as a sailor began in the Olympic Tempest classes, with which he won a bronze at the 1976 Games, and Star, two world golds and a silver. From the early 1970s Conner began to enter the orbit of the America’s Cup environment. Dennis Conner’s legend was born in 1974 when he won his first America’s Cup as starting coxswain (aboard Corageous). Since 1980 he has tied his career, inextricably, to the America’s Cup: as skipper, he won it in ’80 with Freedom, lost it in ’83 on Liberty, and went on to win it back in Australia, with Stars&Stripes, four years later.

Liberty and Australian II during the final act of the 1983 America's Cup.
Liberty and Australian II during the final act of the 1983 America’s Cup.

In 1988 he defended the Cup against the New Zealanders aboard the Stars&Stripes catamaran: he then ran 4 more less successful campaigns until the early 2000s.

The 1987 parade on New York’s Fifth Avenue.

Charismatic, irascible, surly with reporters, Conner was one of the most totalizing personalities there has been in the history of the America’s Cup. Regarded as a winner in sailing public opinion, however, there remains in his history that indelible stain, being the first skipper and helmsman to lose the Old Pitcher after 132 years of unchallenged American dominance. Beaten by the flaps of Australia II and Alan Bond’s band., then welcomed as a national hero after the 1987 rematch in Perth, complete with parade on New York’s Fifth Avenue. And perhaps without that defeat, Big Dad would be a character not as legendary.

Mauro Giuffrè





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