SAILING: Coutts takes command with second success

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The Independent Online


reports from San Diego

New Zealand handed out a severe and public beating to the United States yesterday as they went 2-0 up in the best-of-nine XXIXth America's Cup. The process begun in January, since when they have lost only one race, looks unstoppable and a win yesterday meant the cup is 40 per cent of the way to Auckland.

At least Dennis Conner in Young America, the boat he took over from John Marshall's Pact '95 syndicate in preference to his own Stars & Stripes, looked competitive for the first two legs of the first 18.5-mile race. Yesterday, any nerves in the Kiwi crew settled and Conner was never in the hunt from the time when the starting cannon sounded.

What was supposed to be the weak spot in Kiwi skipper Russell Coutts' game seemed to be exposed by Conner's helmsman, Paul Cayard, at the start, Black Magic being caught outside the line with 30 seconds to go as Cayard was already building speed to a perfect start and control of the left hand side.

In fact Coutts was prepared to pay a very high price for the right hand end of the start line and some separation from Conner's boat. The difference between the two was just two seconds and it quickly became clear that the black boat's speed was not just equal but superior. It was able to sail closer to the wind without suffering a speed penalty, and, as Coutts had been advised, the wind direction was trending to the right.

That gave Conner no chance to attack and Team New Zealand could sail the first beat as though it was the third, their controlling lead allowing them to play the breeze as they wanted to best advantage while keeping only a loose cover on the opposition.

They went round the top mark rather untidily, because of a fouled jib sheet, with a 36-second advantage and then added a further 12 seconds on the first gennaker reach, despite Cayard again being able to sail a little deeper.

By the third time Coutts eased the bow round the windward mark, the gap was over four and a half minutes, the westerly breeze, though shifty, had strengthened from six knots to nine, along with property prices in Auckland, and the commentators were talking about the timing of America's Cup XXX in the City of Sails.

AMERICA'S CUP Race Two: Team New Zealand bt Young America, 4min 14sec. Team New Zealand leads Young America, 2-0.