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Dennis Walter Conner (born September 16, 1942) is an American yachtsman. He is noted for winning a bronze medal at the 1976 Olympics, two Star World Championships, and four wins in the America's Cup.

Dennis Conner
Dennis-Conner-America-s-Cup cropped.jpg
Personal information
Full nameDennis Walter Conner
Nickname(s)Mr. Americas Cup
NationalityUnited States
Born (1942-09-16) September 16, 1942 (age 76)
San Diego, California
Sailing career
Class(es)Tempest, Star


Sailing careerEdit

Conner was born September 16, 1942 in San Diego.[1] He competed in the 1976 Olympics together with Conn Findlay and took the bronze medal in the Tempest class.[1] Conner also took part in the 1979 Admiral's Cup, as helmsman on the Peterson 45 named Williwaw.[2]

America's CupEdit

Conner has won the America's Cup three times, successfully defending the Cup in 1980, and 1988 and winning as the challenger in 1987. He was the skipper of the first defender to be defeated in the 132-year history of the cup, also ending 132 years of successful defense by the New York Yacht Club with their loss in 1983 to Alan Bond's wing-keeled challenger Australia II 4 races to 3. Following the loss Conner formed his own syndicate, the Sail America Foundation, through which he raised funds to mount a challenge culminating with winning the Cup back from Australia in 1987.

The Big Boat Challenge and the beginning of multihulls in America's CupEdit

After taking The Cup back to American soil, this time for the San Diego Yacht Club (SDYC) in 1987, Conner defeated the controversial "Big Boat Challenge" of New Zealand banker Michael Fay.[3] Fay's team challenged with a 90' super-sloop (KZ1). Conner's SDYC responded with a 60' wing-sailed catamaran (US-1), designed by Morrelli, Chance, Hubbard & MacLane in a surprise defense. Fay's challenge and legal case based on the Deed foreshadowed the controversial 33rd America's Cup, whose legal wrangling resulted in the contest being decided in enormous multihulls in February 2010,[4] while returning to the pre-war style of exclusive, billionaire backed campaigns of Alinghi and BMW Oracle Racing.

Leadership and managementEdit

Before the 1980s, America's Cup competitors were mostly amateurs who took time off to compete. Conner insisted on year round training with a new focus on physical fitness and practice. This change in approach led to a return to professional crews in sailing, which had hardly been seen since the 1930s.

A photo of America's Cup winner Dennis Conner while aboard a replica of the original Cup winner "America" in San Diego in 2010

Funding and setbacksEdit

Perhaps due to the bad media attention surrounding the 1988 catamaran defense, Conner had insufficient funding to mount a multiple-boat defense in 1992, which also heralded the debut of the IACC yacht. His USA-11 proved no match to Bill Koch's America3 campaign. USA-11 was built as a test-bed for design ideas that were to be incorporated into the "racing" boat, nicknamed TDC-2. However, TDC-2 was never built. Its ideas were incorporated into his single-boat campaign for 1995, and the yacht Stars & Stripes USA-34. After almost sinking during The Citizen Cup defender trials, USA-34 went on to a come-from-behind win over Mighty Mary, earning the right to defend The Cup against Team New Zealand's Black Magic, NZL-32. Believing Stars & Stripes was no match against the Black Magic, Dennis Conner swapped boats for the Cup matches, pitting Young America against New Zealand's Black Magic NZL–32. But the result was a humiliating defeat for Dennis Conner, losing to Team New Zealand 0–5.

Conner again found difficulty securing funding for the 2000 America's Cup in Auckland, New Zealand. As in 1992 and 1995, he mounted a single-boat campaign centered upon Stars & Stripes USA-55. Conner was eliminated in the quarter final repechage by Craig McCaw's OneWorld Challenge.

Conner was a rare non-billionaire fielding a team to compete in the 2003 America's Cup, held in New Zealand, receiving funding of up to US$40 million from his sponsors. His syndicate, Stars & Stripes, suffered a severe setback before they departed California, as one of the two Stars & Stripes boats (USA-77) sank when its rudder post failed during training. Despite raising the boat from 55 feet of water and eventually repairing it, they were unable to recover the valuable testing time lost and they were defeated in the quarter-finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup.

2003 marked Conner's last participation in the America's Cup.

Yachting accomplishmentsEdit

Honors and activitiesEdit

  • America's Greatest Sailor, US Sailing's Greatest American Sailor Tournament
  • Commencement Speaker, United States Naval Academy
  • Cover, Time Magazine, February 9, 1987 [1]
  • Cover Sports Illustrated with President Ronald Reagan, February 1987 [2]
  • Artist, Sales of artwork in the several millions of dollars
  • Motivational Speaker
  • Member of the San Diego Yacht Club, (Silvergate Yacht Club), New York Yacht Club, Yacht Club de Monaco in Monaco
  • San Diego Rotary



  • No Excuse to Lose, 1987
  • Comeback: My Race for the America's Cup, 1987
  • The Art of Winning, 1990
  • Sail Like a Champion, 1992
  • America's Cup Cookbook, 1992
  • Life's Winning Tips, 1997
  • The America's Cup: The History of Sailings Greatest Competition in the Twentieth Century, 1998
  • Learn to Sail: A Beginner's Guide to the Art, Equipment and Language of Sailing on a Lake or Ocean, 1998


  1. ^ a b c "Dennis Conner". Sports Reference. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
  3. ^ Rich Roberts (February 12, 2008). "Think this is ugly? You should have seen 1988". Scuttlebutt News.
  4. ^ "America's Cup Multihull Battle Set For February 2010". The International Sailing Federation. May 14, 2009. Archived from the original on July 8, 2010.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 15, 2010. Retrieved April 19, 2010.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

External linksEdit