Sailing: GBR faces Conner's Stars & Stripes
Monday 04 November 2002
GBR Challenge know who their opponents in the quarter-final of the Louis Vuitton Cup are, after the second round-robin was finally completed with Chris Dickson celebrating his 41st birthday yesterday with wins over Le Defi Areva, of France, then Sweden's Victory Challenge.
The British boat will meet Dennis Conner's Stars and Stripes in their best of seven quarter-final after the top boat in their group, Sweden's Victory Challenge choose to meet the bottom boat, Le Defi Areva of France. Switzerland's Alinghi has chosen to meet Italy's Prada which leaves the second pairing in the top group as Oracle BMW versus OneWorld
The surprise for the British was finishing ahead of Stars & Stripes, mainly because Conner, who today starts his assault on the Etchells world championship, was expected to do so much better. The disappointment was finishing not just behind Victory Challenge, but in sixth place.
Under the quarter-final system, the best eight are divided into two groups of four and the top boat in each group, first and fifth, chooses its opponent from the other three in their group. The double disappointment for GBR Challenge was the manner of the defeat by the Swedes in the second round-robin.
"I think we saw one of the America's Cup superpowers truly flex its muscles. We were impressed," the sail trimmer Simon Fry said after GBR's penultimate race against Alinghi. "Today was quite a revelation about the difference in performance of the big guns and the rest of the challenger group."
Unfortunately for GBR Challenge, the race demonstrated, at the very least, that the Swedish team had moved further ahead with their boat-speed development programme than their British rivals.
At worst, the changes made by the British may have moved them backwards, though Fry was convinced that, in 16 to 20 knots, GBR 70 was going faster than it ever had in those conditions.
For Mascalzone Latino, meanwhile, the party is over. The Italian team, enjoying their first America's Cup campaign, were eliminated after losing to Le Defi Areva, of France, in a sudden-death, high-noon showdown.
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