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Americas Cup Report - Challenger Finals

Luna Rossa Advances to the Finals When America True Beats Stars & Stripes

America True beat Stars & Stripes today to eliminate Team Dennis Conner from the
Louis Vuitton Cup. Ken Read, on Stars & Stripes was in a must-win position,
needing a point to tie Luna Rossa and force a sail-off for the second berth in
the Finals. But Read fell behind early when after a split start, John Cutler
found new pressure and a favourable shift on the right side of the course. Stars
& Stripes could never recover from the big loss it suffered in the early going,
as Cutler shut down the passing lanes by covering strongly. It was the fourth
win for America True over Stars & Stripes in five matches.

With the results of this race, Luna Rossa advances to the Finals of the Louis
Vuitton Cup where it will meet AmericaOne in a best of nine format. The two
finalists must declare the boat they will use for racing no later than 20
January and the next day, the boats will be unveiled to the press. Racing in the
Finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup starts on 25 January. The winner will meet Team
New Zealand in the America's Cup on 19 February.

Racing was postponed for an hour and a half to allow the wind to build and
settle in direction. The sea breeze came up nicely, but proved to have several
big shifts in it, as the wind oscillated around the North, from 335 degrees to
020 degrees. The wind also changed in speed, from a low of 7 knots, up to as
high as 11 knots.


AMERICA TRUE BEAT STARS & STRIPES - DELTA 01:32 It was a must win race for Ken
Read on Stars & Stripes (USA-55), but unfortunately for him, John Cutler on
America True (USA-51) jumped out to an insurmountable lead on the first
windshift. It was a fairly mild prestart, both skippers perhaps aware that a
penalty could end the race before it began. After a dial up, Cutler led away
towards the Committee Boat on America True, with Read on his tail. The boats
circled and then broke back for the starting line with Read to leeward on the
left, and Cutler close, upwind. Read luffed a couple of times, and America True
tacked off for a split tack start. Both boats hit the line at the same time but
at opposite ends with Stars & Stripes moving out to the left of the course. The
boats separated considerably and when they tacked to converge, the wind shifted
right, and John Cutler had suddenly built a big lead. Read tacked under him, and
Cutler extended by being inside on the lift to the right most of the way up the
beat. America True had a 1:30 lead at the top mark, and John Cutler shut down
the passing lanes the rest of the way. Read gained a little on the second
circuit of the course, but never came within one minute of America True. The
light conditions didn't suit Stars & Stripes, and thus Read was forced to tack
and gybe out of phase on the final two legs, desperately trying to find a shift
that would close the deficit. But because Cutler could choose the shifts, he
actually extended on the final beat and run.

The race had echoes of the 1995 Defender series. In San Diego, in a final race
that would determine the Defender of the America's Cup, Stars & Stripes trailed
around the final mark by just over four minutes but stunned everyone when it
found a new breeze and raced past Mighty Mary to win the race. Many of the crew
from both boats were on board today and clearly America True's Dawn Riley, and
navigator Leslie Egnot were pleased with the reversed result today. On Stars &
Stripes this afternoon, Ken Read referred to the 1995 incident when he told
tactician Tom Whidden they were "downright close" compared to the '95 race. But
there would be no miracle comeback this time, and today, both boats sailed their
final race of the Louis Vuitton Cup.

© Scoop Media

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