INDEPENDENT NEWS

Americas Cup - Challenger Semi Finalists Decided

Published: Thu 16 Dec 1999 08:54 AM
Round Robin Three Finishes - France, Young America Won't Race
The six Semi-Finalists have been decided, as today Le Défi joined Team Dennis
Conner, AmericaOne, America True, Nippon and Prada as the teams to move on.
The French sailed the course alone, adding nine points to their total and confirming their spot in the next stage of the Louis Vuitton Cup.
With only one make-up race left to be sailed, Le Défi and Young America both declined to race each other on Thursday. That meant Round Robin Three of the Louis Vuitton Cup was over and the no-change period, which restricts teams from modifying their boats, had ended.
At the post race press conference, Bertrand Pacé, the skipper of Le Défi was very jubilant and clearly enjoying the effects of an early celebration.
"We have had a very good day today," Pacé smiled. "We are happy to be here for sure but it's a long way to the Finals. I hope our design team can come up with some modifications to help us improve speed."
At the other end of the podium, Ed Baird was stoic in defeat. Young America, a pre-regatta favourite, was knocked out of the Louis Vuitton Cup by the French win.
"My first reaction is that I'm very frustrated and disappointed," Baird said. "But in the end this is a sail boat race and we were beaten.each of us will go forward and continue competing and try to win again."
Young America received some support from the New York Yacht Club today. In a release, Commodore George M. Isdale Jr., said, "The New York Yacht Club is saddened by its lack of success in New Zealand. Nevertheless, we appreciate the efforts of the Young America Team. They brought credit to themselves and to this yacht club. We wish the best of luck to those still competing in this America's Cup, including the New Zealand Defender. We have a belief in sport and in the America's Cup. This great competitive event indicates how alive and well the sport is."
Luc Gellusseau, the French speed merchant who helps Pacé keep Le Défi moving fast, also had some kind words for Baird. "We have the highest respect for Young America and it's crew," he said. "We ask them to excuse us from the race tomorrow.our team is very tired."
The French won seven races in a row, jumping from ninth place into the last Semi-Final berth. Le Défi clearly enjoyed the light, shifty conditions that characterised Round Robin Three.
In the only other race on Wednesday, Idaten claimed second place on the points table with a win over Abracadabra. The Nippon Challenge won eight races in the third Round Robin - more than any other team - and look to be tough to beat in the New Year.
The racers could see Team New Zealand, Prada and AmericaOne out on the Hauraki Gulf today; two-boat testing, practicing, looking for that tiny advantage that will see them advance through the next cuts and onwards, ultimately to the America's Cup. It was a reminder that the competition is only beginning, and that there are many races yet to be won.
Selwyn Manning - Scoop Auckland
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