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SAILING

Penalties Hamper Oracle in Third Loss to Alinghi

January 15, 2003|From Associated Press

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Switzerland's Alinghi took advantage of a mid-race penalty to American rival Oracle to win its third consecutive race in the America's Cup challenger final today by 63 seconds.

Officials at first listed the victory margin as one second, but two penalties at the finish made the final margin 1:01.

In a race delayed 2 1/2 hours because of light winds, Alinghi won the start and led by eight seconds after the first leg of the 18.5-nautical-mile race. It led for the next two legs before Oracle bumped it from behind near the end of the fourth, incurring a penalty.

Oracle led by 29 seconds after the fifth and final mark but lost the race when it had to take the 270-degree-turn penalty on the final leeward leg.

Oracle waited until the finish line to take the penalty, made the turn around the mark and watched as Alinghi edged ahead.

But the close finish was wiped out when Oracle had to take a second penalty turn for hitting the mark.

With races scheduled Thursday and Friday in the nine-race final, Alinghi could clinch the series by the weekend and earn the right to face Cup holder New Zealand in the final beginning Feb. 15.

On the pivotal fourth leg, Oracle flew protest flags, saying that Alinghi, with a slight lead, was not sailing its proper course. At the end of the leg, Oracle led by eight seconds, the first time it led a leg in the final.

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