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AMERICA'S CUP

Alinghi earns rare repeat title

July 04, 2007|From the Associated Press

VALENCIA, SPAIN — Alinghi won a thrilling photo finish over Team New Zealand and clinched the America's Cup on Tuesday, with Switzerland becoming only the third country to retain the 156-year-old trophy.

Skipper Brad Butterworth guided the Swiss boat to a 5-2 win over Emirates Team New Zealand, which lost to Alinghi for the second straight time in the race for the Auld Mug, international sport's oldest trophy.

The Swiss join the United States and New Zealand as having successfully defended their titles in yachting's most prestigious race.

Alinghi swept defending winner Team New Zealand, 5-0, in the best-of-nine series in Auckland four years ago.

In strong and steady wind off Port America's Cup, the Swiss crossed the finish line just one second ahead after letting a penalty advantage and big lead slip over the last leg. Both boats sailed across the line nearly even, with the Swiss bow barely ahead to win the closest fought series in 24 years.

The Swiss team celebrated quietly after nearly letting the race get away in the tense final 200 yards.

Alinghi's spinnaker sail flew out as the wind shifted suddenly and the Kiwis were able to make up a large deficit and perform a penalty turn at the finish line.

But the SUI-100 yacht hung on as its bow came across the finish just barely ahead.

After performing the penalty, the Kiwis looked on in surprise after nearly winning the race.

The hazy summer day provided even conditions across the race course and a steady and full sea breeze -- the reason Alinghi chose the Spanish port city to host the 32nd edition -- for the first time all series.

The race was a fine end to the closest and most exciting regatta since 1983, when Australia II rallied for a 4-3 series win over Liberty, wrestling the Auld Mug from American shores for the first time.

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