By Guy Heveldt
'Mr America's Cup' wants Team New Zealand to win back the Auld Mug.
Dennis Conner, 74, who for so long was public enemy number one in New Zealand, is adamant the regatta needs to return down under for the sake of its own future.
"I like what I'm hearing about the possibility of going back to a mono hull and not making it the same circus that we have [in Bermuda]," Conner said in an interview with Rachel Smalley on Newstalk ZB's Early Edition this morning.
Before the regatta in Bermuda, all of the competing syndicates, except Team New Zealand, agreed to a blueprint for the next two editions of the Cup.
It would see the event take place every two years with a belief that entrant numbers will double. But Conner is decidedly against that.
"I think if Oracle wins, we could have another event every year and what would separate the America's Cup from just being another regatta?" he asked.
"It used to be something special and they've turned this into a completely different event."
Conner won the Cup in 1974, 1980, 1987 and 1988 and is widely regarded in sailing circles as the man who essentially took it from an amateur event to professional status.
He believes Oracle Team USA's move to take it to Bermuda has had a detrimental effect.
"Right now they [people] don't like it," Conner stated. "There's not many big boats in Bermuda, the hotels are empty, the TV ratings are bad and the whole thing, I think, will be an economic disaster for Bermuda."
Conner, who walked out on an interview with the late Sir Paul Holmes in 1989 and told NZ designer Bruce Farr to "get off the stage loser", wants the regatta back in New Zealand.
"People want to go back to what they saw in Auckland with a downtown event, the centre of the America's Cup, everybody having a great time, lots of people, lots of boats, lots of spectators and I see nothing but good to come out of it."
Conner also believes this could be the last time Sir Russell Coutts will be involved in the America's Cup. Coutts, who led Team NZ to its famous victory over Conner's Young America in 1995 in San Diego, before defending the Cup on the Hauraki Gulf in 2000, is head of the America's Cup Events Authority and Oracle Team USA.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he hangs up his sailing shoes and retires.," Conner said.
Team NZ are 3-0 ahead of the resumption of racing on Sunday.
"I don't see Oracle coming back with the same miracle they did last time," Conner said.
"I'm already looking for my spot there in the Viaduct."
Who is Dennis Conner:
• Tagged "Dirty Dennis" by his detractors and "Mr America's Cup" by his supporters, Conner,74, lives in California.
• He has won 28 different world sailing championships and an Olympic bronze medal.
• Conner won the America's Cup four times, defending in 1974, 1980, and 1988 and winning as the challenger in 1987.