Kiwis show awesome consistency as America's Cup sorts out the challengers

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The Independent Online
On the America's Cup challenger course in San Diego, Team New Zealand (in lead above), skippered by Russell Coutts, scored their 17th straight win as Chris Dickson's Tag Heuer was hampered by gear failure and an injury to crewman David Brooke, writes Stuart Alexander. John Bertrand's oneAustralia drew level to equal second again by beating Sydney '95 and Nippon Challenge banked four valuable points by beating Spain's Pedro Campos.

It seems only a matter of time before the Young America crew of Pact '95 turn potential into authority and then their progress towards defending the America's Cup in May will depend on whether the new America3 boat, being finished in secrecy, or Dennis Conner's planned changes, can deliver an unbeatable speed advantage.

In their latest clash with Stars & Stripes, Paul Cayard had the better of the bully-off with Kevin Mahaney by being to the right of him at the start and picking up a little advantage which continued all the way to the first top mark rounding. That gave Stripes a 34-second lead which Pact whittled down to 14 seconds, despite a slow spinnaker hoist, for the first run in the nine knots of south-easterly. Pact has the legs of both its opponents downwind and so is working on upwind parity while the rivals look for improved downwind performance. As usual, the chasing boat found it very difficult to force its way through upwind, but Pact closed the gap from 17 seconds at the end of the fourth leg to 12 at the end of the fifth and could then attack on the last downwind leg. If the course had been a little longer they might have done it, but might-have-beens do not go into the record book. The margin at the end was three seconds, a little too close for comfort.