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Race Two America's Cup

It began as a tactical disaster for the Italians and then turned into a good race as the silver and red boat pulled almost even with Team New Zealand; but then it became a disaster again when a piece of debris well below the surface of the water fouled on Luna Rossa's keel bulb. The wayward garbage—very unusual on the Hauraki Gulf—took the Italians out of the race, and in their attempt to clean the keel, bow man Max Sirena received a deep cut on the head and was taken off in a support boat.

PRADA tries in vain to catch up with Team New Zealand.

With a south wind of 15 knots, which dropped during the race and then came back up again, conditions through most of the match were similar to those in the opening race of this best five-of-nine series. Again the speed of the boats was very close; but Italy's misfortune catapulted Team New Zealand into an easy victory and a 2 - 0 lead in the series.

Luna Rossa's troubles began before the start, but were inflicted by Team New Zealand helmsman Russell Coutts, rather than by Lady Luck. Italy had entered the starting area on starboard tack, which should have been an advantage, but a quick stop and turn by the defenders put them in control of the situation with three minutes to go and they continued to harass the Italians mercilessly from there on. With 40 seconds to go the Kiwis were directly in front of Luna Rossa and heading slowly for the middle of the line. In an effort to shake off their antagonist, the Italians made two tacks, but Coutts stayed right on top of them. At the gun the Italians were astern and behind and crossed the line 18 seconds after Team New Zealand.

Both boats were moving slowly after these quick maneuvers, but Luna Rossa tacked yet again a few seconds after the start in a desperate effort to shake off the defenders. This time Team New Zealand let them go and got their big black boat up to speed before covering. When they came together with Luna Rossa on port tack, instead of crossing, Team New Zealand tacked on their opponent's lee bow and led back towards the right side of the course. It was obvious that Kiwis tactician Brad Butterworth was expecting the wind to go to the right.

However, after a long port tack drag race the wind shifted a bit to the left instead and the Italian boat was able to lift out to weather. At this point the boats were nearly even, with perhaps a bit of an edge to the Kiwis. Their big advantage at the start had been obliterated by a fast challenger that gained the advantage of a subtle wind shift. The on-board microphones picked up the voice of Italian tactician Torben Grael saying he was very happy with the wind and their speed. They were back in the race.

Then the Italian boat slowed and began to fall down towards the New Zealanders. Luna Rossa tacked onto starboard and crewmembers could be seen looking over the side. Sirena jumped down below and looked through the window in the hull, that is used to check the keel. He could see something draped around the forward end of the ballast bulb on the bottom of the keel. After the race skipper Francesco de Angelis said, "Usually it's something on the fin or the rudder. This thing was on the nose of the bulb. It was something with a rope attached."

The Italians got out their "flossing stick," which is a long carbon fiber pole used to clear debris off the keel or rudder. They had been forced to use it in the elimination finals to clear bits of their spinnaker from the keel. But this time, as the pole came up through the fore hatch, a hook on the end of it struck Sirena on the head and inflicted a three inch gash. While his crewmates struggled desperately to clear the rubbish from the keel, Sirena went aft and leaned outboard trying to stem the flow of blood, which was running down the silver topsides of the boat.

PRADA and TEAM NEW ZEALAND approach the start line.

Beside the starboard shrouds, Paolo Bassani was suspended over the side at the end of a halyard, struggling with the flossing stick. He managed to hook the debris but couldn't pull it off the bulb. Finally, in a move unprecedented in recent America's Cup competition, de Angelis brought Luna Rossa head to wind until she came to a stop and reserve msainsail trimmer, Piero Romeo jumped into the water and dived down the 13 feet to the bottom of the keel. He was able to get the flotsam off the bulb, but then it got hung up on the starboard wing which protrudes from the bulb. Unable to stay down any longer Romero swam up and was pulled aboard.

The Italians trimmed in the sails and got moving. On their next tack the debris came loose from the wing and they were at full speed, but about two minutes behind. While the boat had been stalled, Sirena had been taken into a support boat and then to the Italian tender for treatment to his head gash. He watched the rest of the race from there, not requiring hospitalization.

Although tactician Grael urged the Italian crew on by telling them they could still catch the defenders, the rest of the race saw New Zealand hold their long lead to finish more than two minutes ahead. There were big wind shifts, lulls and increases in velocity, but the highly professional New Zealand crew stayed resolutely between their unfortunate opponents and the next mark so their one-sided lead could not be seriously dented.

At the post race press conference, both sides agreed that a very good boat race was shaping up when the Italians picked up the debris on their keel. Grael said, "We were very happy with our speed and the way things developed." Speaking of the relative speeds, New Zealand bow man Dean Phipps said, "When they got up on our hip on the left hand side they got a nice little puff and actually gained a bit, so I think it's very even."

The next race will be on Wednesday.

Meanwhile the International Jury will decide whether a system being used by the New Zealanders to communicate between crew members is legal. Crew working at the bow of NZL 60 are using ear pieces, like a hearing aid, that allows them listen to instructions from the skipper and tactician in the stern. The rules of the America's Cup match say that boats cannot use a communication system that is capable of receiving messages from off the boat. During the challenger series the boats were using on-board systems with a wire to communicate with a crew members up the mast or at the bow. The Italians say the Kiwis method conceivably could be used to receive outside information.

Although Team New Zealand insists the device is a closed-circuit system that does not break the rule, the Italians want a ruling from the jury. They are not asking that any decision be retroactive, but that Team New Zealand be instructed not to use the method of communication in future races.

Bruce Kirby is offline  
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