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Americas Cup Racing Highlights

Prada Holds Firm
Today both the weather and the match-ups conspired to show how entertaining the Louis Vuitton Cup can be. The big match of the day between Luna Rossa and Young America was an excellent race under ideal conditions.

* The Italians held an early lead but never stretched away from the Americans until a terrible spinnaker drop on Young America handed the race to Luna Rossa.

* America True jumped up the points table by beating Young Australia and now sits second behind Prada.

* Team Dennis Conner also solidified its position by beating the Spanish Challenge in an entertaining match.

* Abracadabra introduced a new helmsman before the start, but it didn't help as AmericaOne beat it handily.

* Finally, the French Le Défi earned a win over be hAPpy, jumping over the Swiss in the standings.

The weather was spectacular for racing today. The boats enjoyed Northerly winds building from eight to nearly 15 knots throughout the afternoon, the sun smiling on the race course all day.

An initial dial up, seconds after the five-minute gun saw Bertrand Pacé steering Le Défi (FRA-46) to leeward of be hAPpy (SUI-59) and forcing Swiss helmsman Jochen Schümann away from the line. With 1:30 remaining in the pre-start, the French boat broke back for the line, starting 14 seconds late. The Swiss boat could only follow, starting 23 seconds after that. France extended on every leg, except the first run and the last, when the Swiss gained 51 seconds and seven seconds respectively.

A downspeed luffing contest above the line before the start, was the precursor to Ken Read of Stars & Stripes (USA-55) holding Pedro Campos of Bravo España (ESP- 47) outside the box until both boats got below the committee and fought for the left hand-side at the gun. Read was first back to the line, at the pin on starboard. Campos started ten seconds later, splitting onto port. At the first cross, it was Stars & Stripes crossing on port, by three boat lengths. One more tack and Read chose to defend the right hand side, using the starboard tack right-of-way advantage to stave off the equally fast Spanish boat in a 17-tack duel. Bravo España took the fight to Stars & Stripes again on the first run, getting within one boat-length half way down the run and pressing all the way to the leeward mark. Read rounded only nine seconds ahead but then extended for the rest of the race.

James Spithill sailing Young Australia 2000 (AUS-31) and John Cutler sailing America True (USA-51) circled violently just downwind of the committee boat in an effort to gain the potentially favoured left-hand side. The Americans eventually won the left but Spithill was close to weather of the yellow boat and managed to accelerate over the top of the stalled USA-51. America True flew a protest flag and the Umpires awarded a penalty to Young Australia for a windward boat failing to keep clear (Rule 11). Spithill took his boat over the start line with a 14 second lead and sailed out to the left of the course. America True recovered and tacked away to the right to gain some lateral separation, then tacked back. A speed chase followed and America True demonstrated why it is lying near the top of the points table. Speed overcame the early disadvantage and the unfavoured side of the course. Spithill came back to bounce the Americans away to the right on several occasions, but the speed advantage was too much. The last time they came together Spithill tried a lee bow tack but they were a little bit too far back to make it stick and America True managed to live with it and carry the Australians most of the way to the port tack layline. From here on America True drew out more and more distance and in spite of endless attacks by the Young Australia crew, Cutler never looked threatened again.

The first start was abandoned when a big left-hand shift hit the race course just as AmericaOne (USA-49) and Abracadabra (USA-54) were crossing the start line. Chris Larson, replacing John Kolius on the helm today, was steering Abracadabra for the first time in the Louis Vuitton Cup. In the second pre-start period Abracadabra got a penalty for not keeping clear (Rule 10) when the boats met for the first time, Abracadabra was on port tack entering from the pin end and AmericaOne on starboard. As the pair hit the line for the second time Cayard was to windward of Abracadabra with more speed. AmericaOne wanted to be on the right side and defended that side for the first part of the beat. Cayard and his tactician John Kostecki slowly gained in the oscillating breeze. AmericaOne changed sides frequently to be positioned on the inside of the next wind shift. After 17 tacks AmericaOne rounded the top mark 41 seconds ahead. Abracadabra delayed taking its penalty but could not threaten AmericaOne again.

For most of the afternoon, this heavyweight battle lived up to its promise, Luna Rossa (ITA-45) battling tooth and nail against Young America (USA-58). American skipper Ed Baird threw all he had at Francesco de Angelis, Young America initiating tacking duels upwind and gybing duels downwind. Luna Rossa led throughout the race, after a split tack start with Young America. The pair engaged in the traditional dial up before Baird turned downwind of the line, Luna Rossa trailing close. As they turned up for the line Young America, to leeward, forced the Italians to tack away with a hard luff. Luna Rossa started on port tack slightly ahead and with better speed, building that advantage with a layline push to the left. Baird resisted, throwing 23 tacks at de Angelis but the Italian skipper held firm. The next three legs were much the same, de Angelis at times covering hard, at times letting Baird go, but never holding more than a three boat-length lead. Nearing the bottom mark for the second time, with Young America charging hard on the outside, the boats neck and neck, the Americans lost their spinnaker over the foredeck on the drop. With the sail in the water, the black boat almost came to a stop as the crew frantically tried to bring it back on board. After a few moments they cut it free for the chase boat to pick up, but had already lost nearly two minutes to the opposition. Luna Rossa marched on to victory, proving their mettle under pressure.

Match reports courtesy of www.louisvuittoncup.com

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