Conner learns value of natural justice

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 May, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 May, 1995, 12:00am

LET'S hear it for Dennis Conner. . .

Oh, come on, the guy may be a schmuck but surely he should receive some sort of ovation for services to yachting? OK then, he deserves nought for the way he railroaded the America's Cup organisers into changing the rules to give him a second shot at qualifying for the finals and, once there, sweet-talked the lassies into lending him their craft.

Conner, of course, told anybody that wanted to listen that he did it for the good of the US of A and to keep Stars & Stripes afloat in the America's Cup.

But that's utter bosh from the king of doublespeak. The Machiavellian manoeuvres, the plaintive pleadings and the sexist soliciting he indulged in were aimed purely at furthering the mystique which surrounds him.

Someone who sees himself as God's gift to sailing could not face the possibility of being left treading water in the shallows as the race for the Cup went ahead in the deep blue yonder.

Conner's actions not only saw his popularity reach an all-time low in the States where he was hailed a hero after his previous victories, they held one of the oldest sporting contests on record up to ridicule.

The America's Cup, already seen by some as an irrelevant plaything for multi-millionaires, can hardly claim to be a true test of men and machine now that Conner has been allowed to sail a battleship through the regulations.

What he did was akin to the American Ryder Cup golf team handing passports for the US to Australian Greg Norman and Zimbabwean Nick Price and putting them in against the Europeans.

The one saving grace for the event and the ideals of fair play is that Conner got his comeuppance in the finals against the aptly named Black Magic of Team New Zealand.

The sight of Conner's borrowed boat floundering in the wake of Kiwi wizardry was one to behold for seekers after natural justice - if you don't play by the rules you don't deserve to win.

And has Conner been a gracious loser - no way. Team New Zealand's performance on the waters off San Diego has been down-played by the American camp who point to the quality of the boat while overlooking the tactical brilliance of the crew.

The New Zealand craft is fast all right, but it's no good having a flying machine without the magnificent men to pilot it and the Kiwis proved their worth.

Whether Conner will hang up his sailor's cap now remains to be seen, but if he does decide to fight on let's hope he learns to do it fairly.