Dominant Mahaney sits on the crest of a wave

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The Independent Online
If ever two teams had an incentive to go for the kill in the America's Cup then they are Team New Zealand, who are leading 4-1 in the best of nine challenger final against oneAustralia, and Pact'95, who have their noses in front against both America3 and Team Dennis Conner in the defender series.

Three cups are at stake: the Louis Vuitton for the challengers, the Citizen for the defenders, and, of course, the third, the America's Cup, which is the big prize.

The weather has played havoc with the finals of two qualifying competitions, which have already dragged on too long. Kevin Mahaney's victory over Bill Koch's Mighty Mary was one of those rare ones achieved after being behind at the first cross-over of the two boats.

About 85 per cent of races are won by the first boat round the top mark (which Mahaney actually was), and about 80 per cent by the boat ahead at that first cross, so Mahaney was in a rare group in big seas - the conditions had persuaded the challengers to postpone what looks like the inevitable for another day.

It was not a day for adrenalin but rather a lot of sailing "feel" for what the wind was doing, and a lot of confidence in that analysis. So while Mahaney concentrated on sailing the boat as fast as possible through the big waves it was John Kostecki and Bruce Nelson who told him which way to go and when.

There was no indication of any difference in boat speed, no cause for undue celebration by the Packers, no cause for undue pessimism for Cubed.

"Everybody's still pretty optimistic in our camp," said their sail-trimmer, Merrit Palm. "I think we will go out and do well next time because we have to." There are five more defenders' races to go.

CITIZEN CUP Final: Race 7: Young America bt Mighty Mary 2min 46sec. Standings: 1 Pact'95, 4 pts; 2 America3, Team Dennis Conner, 3.

LOUIS VUITTON CUP Final: Race 6: Team New Zealand v oneAustralia postponed.