Sailing: Dominant Italians pull away from fleet

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THE ITALIANS ruled the waves in Auckland again yesterday, scoring an important win over the New York Yacht Club's Young America and teeing themselves up for a handy lead as the second round robin in the Louis Vuitton Cup enters its final stages. They have lost only one race in 18 starts, and that to Dennis Conner in shifting wind conditions.

Skipper Francesco De Angelis was leading yesterday but under continuous pressure from Ed Baird until the Americans fluffed a sail handling manoeuvre.

Trawling their spinnaker and turning it into a sea anchor not only allowed the Italians to pull away, it cost the Americans four points which pushed them down from second to third place overall.

Ed Baird, skipper of Young America, said they had made a mistake and it had been difficult to recover the sail because of the pressure of the yacht speeding through the water.

"We are learning," he added. "We came into this event lacking quite a bit of boat handling time, so we are learning under fire."

De Angelis acknowledged that there was a lot of close racing to come and also knows that a second, faster boat is being developed in the wings.

Up one place from third in the standings is the only woman skipper in America's Cup history, Dawn Riley, whose San Francisco-based America True first showed pace over Young Australia and then sealed matters as James Spithill, at 20 the youngest skipper in the event, picked up a penalty.

Riley was able to enjoy the moment saying: "It's always good to be second, but it's better to be first. We still have to win every single race so that's our goal."