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Sailing

Shifting winds force Race 4 postponement

And Kiwis, down 0-3, replace tactician after multiple errors.

©Associated Press

February 20, 2003


AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Race 4 of the America's Cup was postponed because of light, shifting winds, but not before the Swiss team had a little fun with the race committee.

The race is scheduled for Saturday (Friday EST), with Alinghi holding a 3-0 lead over two-time defending champion Team New Zealand in the best-of-nine series.

At times there was enough wind, but it was shifting too wildly to start a fair race.

After waiting two hours, principal race officer Harold Bennett told the sloops he did not see conditions improving. Team New Zealand agreed, but Alinghi's New Zealand-born crew told Bennett they had to check with their weather team first.

Tactician Brad Butterworth and skipper Russell Coutts clearly were enjoying themselves, laughing and smiling. Bennett finally called a halt to the race.

Struggling for its first win, Team New Zealand made a crew change before the race, replacing tactician Hamish Pepper with Frenchman Bertrand Pace, helmsman of the syndicate's backup boat. The change came after the Kiwis made crucial mistakes in the second and third races.

Skipper Dean Barker admitted there was "confusion" between key decisionmakers and the weather team minutes before Race 3. While the Kiwis chose the left side of the course, Alinghi took the right and gained from a wind shift. The Swiss led the entire race and won by 23 seconds.

In Race 2, the Kiwis let Coutts come from behind on the downwind run, and the Swiss won by seven seconds. NZL-82 broke down minutes into the opening race and withdrew. Relying on intuition and information from the navigator, the tactician tells the skipper when to tack and gybe.

Only eight sailors in Team New Zealand's full squad have sailed in an America's Cup match. Led by Coutts and Butterworth, Alinghi has a core of six Kiwis who helped Team New Zealand win the Cup in 1995 and defend it in 2000.

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