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SAILING

Mistake Proves Costly for Oracle

January 13, 2003|From Associated Press

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Switzerland's Alinghi made it two wins in a row in the America's Cup challenger final, taking advantage of a crew error by San Francisco's Oracle for a 40-second victory today.

Alinghi needs three more victories in the best-of-nine series to advance to the America's Cup final in February against defenders Team New Zealand.

With the wind at 12 knots at the start, the boats began a tacking duel that saw Alinghi push Oracle further down the course. That reduced Oracle's options to overcome Alinghi's control of the opening windward leg.

Alinghi, skippered by New Zealander Russell Coutts, picked up small amounts of advantage on each tack, but made its biggest gains when the two stayed on the same tack for about 10 minutes leading up to the first mark.

During that time Alinghi, showing more acceleration, extended its lead from about 75 meters to more than 100 and the Swiss boat led after the first mark by 26 seconds.

Oracle, the faster downwind boat, made up some of that time on the second leg, but in a crew error broke its spinnaker pole as it rounded the second mark and trailed by 19 seconds.

The American boat lost at least 15 seconds while it retrieved the broken pole dangling off the bow and at least another 30 seconds while it lost boatspeed as it tried frantically to cut away the spinnaker dragging in the water.

"That gave us some breathing space," Alinghi's Murray Jones said. "We could keep the distance reasonable, and be conservative."

Alinghi never looked back, extending its lead on the third leg by up to 150 meters and led at the halfway point of the six-leg, 18.5 nautical-mile race by 52 seconds.

Oracle reduced that margin to 31 seconds on the fourth leg but Alinghi, the better boat against the wind, put the margin back up to 48 seconds going into the final leg.

Alinghi had spinnaker problems on the last leg, losing control of the pole about 10 minutes before the end of the race, but recovered to hold the lead.

Larry Ellison, the American software billionaire who backs Oracle, sailed as 17th man on his boat both days. Alinghi syndicate head Ernesto Bertarelli was aboard the Swiss yacht in his usual position as navigator.

The teams are off Tuesday and will resume racing Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

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