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Alinghi Can Wait for Fourth Race

Light, shifting winds force postponement with Swiss holding a 3-0 lead. New Zealand changes tacticians.

February 20, 2003|From Associated Press

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Race 4 of the America's Cup was postponed today because of light, shifting winds, but not before Alinghi of Switzerland had a little fun with the race committee.

The race is now scheduled for Saturday (Friday PST), with Alinghi holding a 3-0 lead over two-time defending champion Team New Zealand in the best-of-nine series.

At times there was enough wind for the race to be held, but it was shifting too wildly to start a fair race.

After waiting two hours, principal race officer Harold Bennett radioed the sloops at about 3 p.m. and told them he didn't see the conditions improving.

"It'll be my intention to call it a day, if you agree," he said.

Team New Zealand agreed, but Alinghi's New Zealand-born crew leaders strung Bennett along, telling him they had to check with their weather team first.

Tactician Brad Butterworth and skipper Russell Coutts were clearly enjoying themselves, laughing and smiling.

At 3:20 p.m., Bennett radioed the boats again to call it a day. "Brad, I'm sorry, we'll have to go home," he told Butterworth.

"Thanks for that, Harold, we're bitterly disappointed," Butterworth replied.

Desperate for its first win, Team New Zealand made a crew change before the race, replacing tactician Hamish Pepper with Frenchman Bertrand Pace, helmsman of the syndicate's backup boat.

The change in the afterguard came after the Kiwis made crucial mistakes in the second and third races.

Skipper Dean Barker admitted there was "confusion" between the key decision-makers on the boat and the weather team in the minutes before Race 3. While the Kiwis chose the left side of the course, Alinghi took the right side and gained immediately from a wind shift. The Swiss led the whole race and won by 23 seconds.

In Race 2, the Kiwis let Coutts come from behind on the downwind run to the finish, and the Swiss boat won by seven seconds. NZL-82 broke down minutes into the opening race and had to withdraw.

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