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Italy's Prada Team Leads In Unbeaten Round Robin

Race Day 6 - Lead: Prada Takes Early Glory:
Report courtesy of www.louisvuittoncup.com

Round Robin 1 - Race 10 - Prada
Having completed all of its races Wednesday, Prada has taken the early glory - topping out Round Robin One with an unassailable lead, despite two matches remaining.

The races involving AmericaOne have been delayed until Thursday to allow that team time to complete repairs.

Yet again the day will finish in the protest room with both Young Australia and Abracadabra filing complaints against the race committee, which did not grant a delay - at both teams' request - in the afternoon's racing (full story to follow later).

The first Round has seen Prada, AmericaOne, and Young America solidify their pre-regatta roles as Louis Vuitton Cup favourites. While Prada has won the round, the Americans sail off tomorrow to determine the top U.S. challenger.

Not surprisingly, the Young Australia team has struggled with an old boat, and it shares the bottom region of the standings with the Swiss FAST 2000 team, and France's Le Defi Bouygues Telecom Transiciel.

The Swiss, the only team yet to earn a point, are struggling to understand a new boat that they sailed for only one week before racing began. The French are anxious to make changes to their boat. Plans include a new keel and bulb, and adding length to the after section of the boat.

The middle group in the standings consists of boats that have shown speed at times, but have been clearly outclassed by the top three. In this group is Team Dennis Conner with Stars & Stripes

Conner's team received a boost on Wednesday, gaining two points by sailing around the course alone. The Americans are saying they're happy with their speed and need only to make small adjustments, but they must be surprised to be so close to the bottom

Next up is the Japanese Nippon syndicate. This team has beaten the basement dwellers, and some of the middle teams, but has not shown the speed to threaten the top teams. Skipper Peter Gilmour has been among the more aggressive sailors in the early races. Look for him to continue to ruffle some feathers as the regatta progresses.

Abracadabra 2000 has beaten every team below it, and lost to every team above it but for Stars & Stripes. This campaign must beat some of the faster teams if it wants to progress.

The Spanish challenge is in a similar position, with a win over Abracadabra 2000 to show it may have a slight edge.

Nudging at the door of the top three is the America True syndicate. Dawn Riley's team has shown every indication so far it will join the others in the semi-finals. But it hasn't yet shown the speed to be a serious threat to the top teams.

America True was one team upset with the schedule postponements that cut time out from between rounds, so they may have some boat changes planned that could mean more speed down the road.

The top three teams of Prada, Young America, and AmericaOne have clearly shown they are a step above the others. The Italian Prada Challenge is the only syndicate to emerge unbeaten from the first Round.

But both wins against the American teams involved an element of luck, gear failures on the final leg allowed Prada to pass near the finish line. That being said, the Italian team has shown good speed, good team work, and good tactics. There is no reason to believe they won't be in the finals.

Similarly, the Young America team has performed as expected. The only true blemish on their record is the loss to Prada, and that came after losing control of their spinnaker when a shackle broke open within sight of the finish line. The team also lost a point on Wednesday, when equipment failure meant they couldn't start on time. This team has the record and the resources to go all the way. They still have a race against AmericaOne for the title of top American challenger behind Prada.

The team with an ace in the hole is the AmericaOne syndicate. They are the only team that still has a boat being built. Paul Cayard is going out on limb by having a boat delivered so late in the campaign. It gives the team the advantage of more modeling and tank testing, but less time on the water to tune the boat up to speed, and see if it's really as fast as predicted. It is entirely possible that who eventually meets Team New Zealand will be determined by whether this strategy pays off.

-by Peter Rusch

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