Photo by: Nigel Marple/REUTERS/PIXSELL
Mr. America’s Cup
People who have climbed to the top of the world in any field emanate a special kind of energy. Mentality, confidence, attitude and body movements in natural born winners are somehow different. Dennis Conner is just the exception that proves the rule. Although nearly eighty, in ill health and at least 30 kg (66 pounds) overweight, one of the most famous sailors of all times is still wearing a champion’s costume splendidly. His eyes are still burning with passion for victories and new projects.
Conner gives the impression of a man who still loves a challenge, albeit in his later years . A glance at his sports CV reveals that words like giving up, defeat or obstacle are unfamiliar concepts to him. He is called Mr America’s Cup, and much more often so than Dennis Conner. When the most respected sailing competition in the world is part of someone’s nickname, you know that that person has made a mark on a better part of the sport in question. He has won an Olympic bronze medal in the Star class and is a 28-time world champion in different classes, but the thing that has marked his career are big boats. Americans have a saying: Big boats, big money; and it is precisely the skilful dance between sails and dollars that has become Conner’s trademark. He has four America’s Cup in his display cabinet (1974, 1980, 1987 and 1988) and is the only skipper who managed to lose, and then immediately win back, the oldest sporting trophy in the world. He is a member of all existing sailing halls of fame, author of several books and a great motivational speaker. The journey from being a poor boy to the sailing deity is a real story about the American dream as much as it is a wornout cliché.
Dennis Conner has already been to Croatia, participating at ACI Match Race Cups when they were attended by the greatest names in sailing. Some thirty years ago the Adriatic was an unavoidable destination for big races. The reason for this present visit, however, is not a competition, but a cruise. He invited seven friends with whom he celebrated his 76th birthday, and Ivan Kljaković Gašpić, the director of ACI Marina Trogir, played the role of their host. The former Croatian sailor met Conner in the Bahamas a few years ago and it was then that the idea of a trip to Croatia was born. The route was a daring one: Split – Palmižana – Korčula – Dubrovnik – Mljet – Vis – Skradin – Trogir. Several hundred miles in seven days.
I realised in Rovinj that Croatia is the country where I had seen the most beautiful women. That assertion of mine was confirmed after this trip. It was sheer pleasure to cruise in Dalmatia. My friends are delighted with the beauty of the islands and the food. It seems to me that Croatia is still a mystery to Americans. This is partly because there are no direct flights, but when that changes, nothing will ever be the same.