Dennis Conner says he'll be perceived as a loser if he fails to defend the America's Cup - and no great shakes if he successfully defends it.

"I'm out there in a position where several hundred media have already counted the chickens," Conner said Tuesday.He will skipper Stars and Stripes in the best-of-three series with New Zealand that begins at 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday off the coast of San Diego.

"The race is already over. They say we've won the race. But if for some reason we're not successful here, the only reason we couldn't have won was because Dennis must not have done his job right.

"If we win, the boat was faster because you've all told me that. If we lose, then old Dennis has lost the America's Cup again. So how does it sound?"

If it sounds like Conner is grumpy about the attention focused on the first America's Cup competition held off the West Coast - and the type of attention his Cup defense is receiving - you're correct.

Watch Conner on TV hawking a soft drink or credit card and you get the feeling he is a kind, gentle man who loves what he is doing. But watch the 44-year-old Conner in a press conference and it becomes obvious this self-made millionaire is intolerant - and at times intolerable.

Conner did not enjoy the lead-up to America's Cup XXVII despite the fact it is being held in the backyard of his own San Diego Yacht Club, of which he is the commodore.

He is growing irritated with the media. He is growing irritated with Michael Fay, the outspoken chairman of the New Zealand challenge group. Above all, he is growing irritated with the consensus that his speedy, lightweight, 60-foot catamaran cannot lose against the mammoth 133-foot, 41-1/2-ton yacht with a 21-foot keel.

Fay is convinced the United States' entry is so dominant it violates both the spirit of the race and the Deed of Gift, the 1888 document that governs America's Cup racing. Fay, of course, has asked the New York Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the boat, while Conner was still insisting this week that a protest committee should decide the issue before the initial race began.

Fay, a merchant banker and financier, has been described by Conner as the "biggest whiner and complainer in the history of the Cup."

As for the alleged mismatch, Conner, after berating a reporter for asking, said: "There has never been a sure thing in a sailboat race. There are a lot of things that can happen in a sailboat race, even if a faster boat were involved in the contest. People go the wrong direction, you could rip a sail, you could have a breakdown, the other person could outsmart you."

Fay believes Conner will attempt to sandbag so as to make New York Supreme Court Judge Carmen Ciparick, who will probably rule on the legality of the catamaran eventually, believe the matchup was not lopsided.

Now, some members of the Stars and Stripes team claim the Kiwis must have done something wrong if their monohull is truly traveling as slowly downwind as they claim.

Stars co-designer Bruce Nelson claimed this week he doesn't think New Zealand has produced the optimum boat with a 90-foot waterline.

Bruce Farr, who designed the New Zealand boat, said "our boat is as fast as you can make a 90-foot monohull sloop wth the time we had."

The Kiwis opted for a best-of-three race because, in the words of Tom Schnakenberg, New Zealand's sailmaking genius: "It's good for someone looking for improbabilities. The chances of the Americans breaking down or running out of wind would be lower in a best-of-seven."

The Kiwi boat has the longest load waterline (90 feet) in Cup history as well as the longest draw (21 feet).