Mr America’s Cup

  • Influential figure: Conner changed the way the America's Cup was approached

    Influential figure: Conner changed the way the America's Cup was approached

American Dennis Conner was known as is “Mr America’s Cup” after his four wins. He is noted for winning the bronze medal at the 1976 Olympics and two Star World Championships.

In winning the America’s Cup four times, Conner successfully defending the Cup in 1974, 1980, and 1988 and won 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 defence by the New York Yacht Club with their loss in 1983 to Alan Bond’s wing-keeled challenger Australia II 4-3. Following the loss Conner formed his own syndicate, the Sail America Foundation, through which he raised funds to mount a challenge. Representing the San Diego Yacht Club, he embarked upon a three-year campaign, which culminated in his winning the Cup back from Australia in 1987.

After taking The Cup back to American soil Conner defeated the controversial “Big Boat Challenge” of New Zealand banker Michael Fay whose team challenged with a 90-foot super-sloop (KZ1). Conner’s SDYC responded with a 60-foot wing-sailed catamaran in a surprise defence. 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 while returning to the pre-war style of exclusive, billionaire backed campaigns of Alinghi and BMW Oracle Racing.

From 1987 through to 2003, Conner was skipper of the celebrated Stars & Stripes yachts. Within the yachting community, Conner is most famous for fundamentally changing the America’s Cup, and racing in general, from an amateur to professional status. These accomplishments led to the nickname “Mr America’s Cup”.

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.

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