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Becalmed Again - America's Cup

With the inner Hauraki Gulf extremely calm, Race 4 of the 30th Cup Match once again is under postponement in conditions worse today than last Sunday. Clouds and a humid haze have settled over the area, inhibiting the temperatures from rising to a point where they could help produce the forecasted seabreeze. "There's little to get excited about," said Principal Race Officer Harold Bennett. "We'll just sit and wait and see what happens."

Going into today's fourth race of the best-of-nine America's Cup final match, Italy's Prada Challenge is in a "no-win" situation. The Italians, trailing the powerful Team New Zealand 3-0, are winless in what may come to be known as the "windless" America's Cup.

The question on everyone's lips now is whether Prada can even win a single race, let alone win the five races it needs to take the America's Cup from the Kiwis. In three races, the Italian boat has not finished within one minute of New Zealand.

In the first race, Luna Rossa led off the line, but New Zealand skipper Russell Coutts used his starboard-tack advantage to take control and cruised to a 1:17 victory in the 10- to 12-knot southwesterly breeze.

The second race was a disaster even before the start. The Kiwis left the Italians 18 seconds behind at the gun. Luna Rossa narrowed the gap to half a boat length, displaying the promise of speed in the 13-knot southerly breeze. Then misfortune struck -- a piece of debris snagged on the keel, taking the Italians out of the race.

In Saturday's match, the Kiwis again dominated the start and won the right side of the course coming off the line. But even when the Italians were lifted on port tack, they could not get by New Zealand in the 13-knot breeze and lost by 1:39.

Nonetheless, the Italians remain optimistic. Skipper Francesco de Angelis said, "We should wait to see how the boats perform in different conditions before making conclusions," as to whether New Zealand is faster than Luna Rossa.

He also said they'll be doing things a little different. "We're taking a new attitude into the start. We are going to be more aggressive," he said.

De Angelis will have the starboard entry, so that will give him the initial advantage, particularly if the conditions are light.

But for the Italians to have a chance of beating the crack New Zealand crew, they must be at the top of their game not just physically, but psychologically as well. At the conclusion of Race 3, the Prada crew crossed the finished line dejected and looking every bit the beaten team that they were.

The two-day break between races, combined with a practice session on Monday, may have given the Italians a chance to recover psychologically and take the edge off the Kiwi momentum.

Today's weather is decidedly tricky. The remnants of yesterday's 12-knot southwesterly died this morning with the sun rise, but warm temperatures could produce a northeasterly seabreeze, although it'll have to blow at least eight knots from a steady direction before Principal Race Officer Harold Bennett starts a race.

ENDS

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