Sailing: Italians on top in Cup trial

ITALY'S PRADA Team, skippered by Francesco de Angelis, were unbeaten on the first day of an America's Cup trial regatta in Auckland yesterday. Prada, the best-funded America's Cup challengers, have spent more time in Auckland practising than any other crew seeking to take on the defending champions, New Zealand.

The Italians set up camp here for three months last year and five months this summer.

The French Le Defi crew, skippered by Bertrand Pace, ended the first day of the Road to the America's Cup with one win and one loss, while the San Francisco-based America True team failed to score. America True appear to be suffering from the loss of the world No 2 match race skipper, Gavin Brady, who resigned from their challenge a week ago.

The event is being held a year before the America's Cup as a trial run for many of the organisations involved in the real Cup regatta, being sailed in two identical boats provided by the Team New Zealand defence syndicate. The winners of the four-day challenger series face the New Zealanders at the weekend.

The three crews had a tough day in brisk conditions on Auckland's Waitemata Harbour, with shifing winds of 18 to 23 knots out of the south west towards the upper limit of conditions these delicate boats can handle.

In the last race of the day a broken boom cost the French boat their chance of victory over the Italians, though the Prada crew did have the upper hand at the time of the breakage. De Angelis is the lowest-ranked skipper here in the world match race rankings but his months of training in America's Cup class boats has taught him how to get the best speed out of them.

n Giovanni Soldini was yesterday poised to take the lead in the 50,000 kilometre Around Alone race, despite stopping to rescue a fellow competitor.