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Preview Race Four - Will There Be Wind??

America's Cup 2000 Release

After the heartstopping action of the Louis Vuitton Cup (especially the Finals), race fans have been frustrated by the pace of the America's Cup. The problem isn't with the sailors or the boats, the problem is the light winds that have forced the abandonment of three race days. Today, on day eleven of the Match, we are still trying to sail Race Four. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate the rest of the way.

After the first two races there were still a lot of questions to be answered but in Race Three Team New Zealand showed it is on the right track to successfully defending the America’s Cup. The score in the 'first to five' Match is 3-0 in favour of the Kiwis.

Today the Italians must stop Team New Zealand from winning another race if they want to stand a chance of taking the Cup home to Italy. Prada does not fully have its back against the wall yet, but psychologically it is already hard to come back from three down. Being four races behind would be disastrous.

So what can Prada’s strategy be for today? It will have to take more risks to be able to claim a win from the Kiwis. Francesco de Angelis has the starboard tack advantage on entering the starting box today. He has to use that advantage to dominate the pre-start and get the desired side of the course. Then, once on the weather leg, Torben Grael will have to get the first shift right with enough separation between the pair. Prada needs room the play with, to speed up and get control. If it can round the top mark first, the outcome is far more likely to be in favour of the Italians.

But Team New Zealand’s helmsman Russell Coutts is not going to give the Italians a lot of room to play with. In Race Two Coutts turned the starboard tack advantage of Prada around in no time. And Brad Butterworth, Team New Zealand’s tactician, does not have to take any risks on the beat. He can keep it tight or just cover Prada. Being three up, the Kiwis don't to take any risks.

In Race Three, Team NZ showed good match race skills in the pre start, good tactics, flawless crew work and sailed a boat that appears to be fast in a wide range of situations. Footing a bit or pointing higher, they appear to be in control. The Italians, who won the Louis Vuitton Cup in style and were the best and fastest challenger, need to get back into their Semi-Finals mode, when they came back from Match point against them to win the series.

Today could be another frustrating day weather wise. The forecasters are calling for Southwest winds of up to 15 knots. But a lot depends on the temperature over the central North Island. According to the Metservice, the faster it warms up over the Waikato and Taupo areas, the better the wind will be over the Hauraki Gulf. Let’s hope for a race today.

- Simon Keijzer, Peter Rusch

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