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In Search of a Second Wind

Team New Zealand hopes new tactician can turn around a 3-0 deficit in the America's Cup.

February 21, 2003|From Associated Press

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — The shifty winds of the Hauraki Gulf did Team New Zealand a favor.

Race 4 was postponed from Thursday until Saturday (today, Pacific Time) because the gulf's fluky breezes were shifting by up to 30 degrees. Perhaps it merely delays the inevitable.

Alinghi of Switzerland and its so-far-unbeatable skipper, Russell Coutts, have a 3-0 lead in the best-of-nine series.

At the very least, the delay allows the beleaguered Kiwis time to regroup.

Team New Zealand made a significant crew change before the boats headed out to the course Thursday. Skipper Dean Barker replaced his longtime friend, tactician Hamish Pepper, with Frenchman Bertrand Pace.

The move came after tactical mistakes cost the two-time defending champion Kiwis the second and third races.

In his fifth America's Cup campaign, Pace will bring considerable experience and aggressiveness to the brain trust in the back of the boat.

"It'll be Dean sailing the yacht and Bertrand talking in his ear," syndicate head Tom Schnackenberg said.

The 41-year-old Pace was born in Dunkirk, and is nicknamed "The Little General." A former world match-racing champion, he was France's skipper in the last America's Cup regatta.

During one race, he plowed his boat into the stern of Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes, drawing a penalty and a half-point deduction in the standings.

Pace might steer the Kiwis' black boat during the prestart maneuvers, when the 80-foot sloops jockey for the favored side of the course.

"What we know from Bertrand is he is a fantastic match racer," said Xavier de Lesquen, general manager of Pace's old team, Le Defi. "Bertrand is an incredible man in a difficult situation. When everything is difficult he is very good and that is where he is at the best of his game."

When Race 4 goes off, New Zealand native Coutts will try to extend his winning streak to 13 consecutive races in the America's Cup match.

Alinghi is closing in on becoming the first European team to win the 152-year-old competition.

The forecast for today is wind of 7 to 11 knots from the south-southwest.

If Alinghi wins the series, it would be the first America's Cup defender from a country that has no coastline. Alinghi would consider ports on the Mediterranean and Atlantic for the next regatta, probably in 2007.

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America's Cup

TEAM NEW ZEALAND VS. ALINGHI

Alinghi of Switzerland leads, 3-0, in best-of-nine series.

*--* Schedule (U.S. dates, 4 p.m. PST; TV: ESPN2) Race 1--Alinghi wins Race 6--Monday* Race 2--Alinghi wins Race 7--Wednesday* Race 3--Alinghi wins Race 8--Feb. 28* Race 4--Today Race 9--TBA* Race 5--Saturday * If necessary

*--*

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