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Team New Zealand Gets Early Wake-Up Call, but Still Wins

March 23, 1995|DAVE DISTEL

SAN DIEGO — Team New Zzzzzzealand, yawning its way through the America's Cup challenger series, had to wake up Wednesday to keep its on-the-water record perfect.

Russell Coutts' boat, 26-0 at sea but with one defeat in the protest room, rallied on the last windward leg to catch oneAustralia and go on to a 39-second victory. It finished the first round robin of the semifinal series with a one-point lead over TAG Heuer Challenge, a 57-second winner over Nippon Wednesday.

There was also a flirtation with an upset on the defenders' course, where point leader Young America had to come from behind to defeat Stars & Stripes by 28 seconds. Young America has four points to one each for Stars & Stripes and America 3.

OneAustralia led by 1:04 after the first mark, but Team New Zealand took the lead near the end of the third windward leg. Team New Zealand came up on oneAustralia's left, and the two raced side by side, about 25 feet apart, before oneAustralia was forced to tack off to the right. When they crossed a few minutes later, Team New Zealand was ahead for the first time.

Nearing the finish line, with oneAustralia well astern, Coutts' voice could be heard from the television feed: "I'm feeling more comfortable that we'll win this one now."

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