SAILING : History beckons for TNZ

STUART ALEXANDER reports from San Diego
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The Independent Online
New Zealand is just one race away from a historic whitewash of the United States in the America's Cup after taking another mighty swipe at the edifice which is Dennis Conner to go 4-0 up in the best-of-nine series yesterday.

For the first third of the first leg on a tricky, shifty course which is Conner's back yard, Young America, steered by Paul Cayard, had the advantage for the first time since the two first clashed on 6 May. But cool patience on the part of Team New Zealand's skipper, Russell Coutts, paid off as the capricious wind behaved as predicted by his tacticians.

Then Black Magic picked up her skirts, lifted away from Young America and when Cayard came back to attack, was five boat lengths clear.

The Americans twice had the opportunity to cross ahead of TNZ and take what was the favoured left-hand side of the course, but Conner was adamant about keeping the right-hand side of the course for himself.

So, instead his crew tacked on top of the Kiwis, pushing them back to the left side they wanted anyway. The breeze strengthened to nine knots as they pulled 2min 49sec clear at half-way.

The next race is tommorow and, if New Zealand wins that, the cup will be their's, the second time in 144 years, but also in 12 years, it has left the United States. Hotel reservations are already being cancelled in droves. Only a miraculous disaster can save Conner from becoming the only man to lose the cup twice, to be at the helm of half the races ever lost by the US as defenders.

AMERICA'S CUP (San Diego) Race 4: Team New Zealand bt Young America, 3min 37sec. New Zealand lead best-of-nine series 4-0.