"It was an art before. We are just starting to scratch it into a science."
Individuals don’t win the America’s Cup. Teams do. Nevertheless, there have been many individuals who have cast more than just a passing shadow across the Auld Mug. Some are known for winning. Some are known for losing. Others are known for what they bring, be it passion, rivalry, infamy, or controversy. They all add to the lore of the America’s Cup and have made it what it is today.
Dennis Conner is one such individual.
Dennis Conner’s name is synonymous with the America’s Cup. He’s the only one to have won 4 times as skipper, the first to lose the Cup and the first to win it back.
Conner’s first Cup was 1974, he was the new kid from California, entering an event dominated by East Coast tradition. He learned fast, starting as the tactician on Mariner, before being promoted to helm the boat, and then being added to the afterguard of Courageous, which went on to successfully defend the Cup.
In 1980 he raised the trophy once again, but in 1983, he gained infamy for becoming the first American skipper to lose the Cup since the yacht America’s seminal victory in 1851. The loss ended the New York Yacht Club's 132-year stranglehold on the Auld Mug.
His well-documented struggle to win it back in the next cycle (Perth, Australia, 1987), is the stuff of legend. His face appeared on the covers of Time and Sports Illustrated (with President Ronald Reagan) and he became known as “Mr. America’s Cup.”
His defence of the rogue challenge presented by New Zealand’s 90-foot monohull, KZ-1 the following year, with a catamaran, and the protracted legal wrangle that ensued, further cemented his place in the myth and legend of the America’s Cup.
Before retiring after the 2003 match, Conner would compete in 9 America’s Cup campaigns but his sailing career spreads throughout all sailing disciplines. He has won 28 world championships, a bronze medal in the 1976 Olympics, and was named Yachtsman of the Year three times.