SAILING : Team New Zealand turn on power

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reports from San Diego

Unbeaten in 26 starts, Team New Zealand took nearly five of the six legs in a thrilling third race of the Louis Vuitton Cup semi-finals yesterday to make it 27 against a battling oneAustralia. It was another demonstration of the smooth power which is driving Russell Coutts to the LVC finals and a crack at the US defender. For John Bertrand and his co-helmsman, Rod Davis, it was a heartbreaking demonstration that the cause for which he has fought so hard is terminally doomed.

Coutts has always looked sticky at the start, perhaps indicating that the keel geometry which gives such good straight line speed and height to the impressive black boats has a downside of poor manoeuvrability. So he trailed Davis across the line in the 9 to 11 knot westerly.

Twice he threw a series of tacks at Davis and twice seemed to close a little only for oneAustralia to benefit from one of those flicks in wind direction that make the San Diego race track such a lottery. Coutts was mixing it toe-to-toe instead of turning on the turbo but when he did, on the last upwind leg and having squeezed the gap down to under 10 seconds, it was a way of saying it was time to button things down.

With Chris Dickson easily beating Nippon Challenge, that makes the Kiwis first and second. On the defender course, Kevin Mahaney's Pact '95 was also coming from behind to leave Dennis Conner beginning to wonder if he will make the Citizen Cup finals as the co-ed America3 looks for a late run of success in what is clearly a fast boat.

CITIZEN CUP Semi-final, Day 2; Pact '95 bt Stars & Stripes, 28sec. Standings: 1 Pact '95, 4 pts; 2= Stars & Stripes, America3, 1.

LOUIS VUITTON CUP Race 3: Team New Zealand bt oneAustralia, 39sec; Tag Heuer bt Nippon Challenge, 58sec. Standings: 1 Team New Zealand, 3pts; 2, Tag Heuer, 2; 3 oneAustralia, 1; 4 Nippon Challenge, 0.