Team New Zealand still perfect

January 21, 1995|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,Sun Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO -- Team New Zealand, undefeated entering yesterday's races in the America's Cup challenger trials, extended its winning streak to five with an impressive, 1-minute victory over Nippon Challenge.

Team New Zealand, which yesterday clinched first place in the first round robin, finishes tomorrow against Sydney '95, which has won two races, against Spain and France.

Nippon (3-2) is scheduled to race Sydney '95 today.

"We played to get the right-hand side," said Brad Butterworth of the Team New Zealand afterguard. "And we had a close beat up the first leg.

"But we went around a little ahead, and as the race went on, we just managed to fend them off."

Team New Zealand built its victory on superior windward performance.

On the first leg of the race, Team New Zealand and skipper Russell Coutts, a three-time world champion match racer, gained 31 seconds on Nippon to take a 29-second lead.

On the two successive windward legs, Team New Zealand gained 38 and 11 seconds, and Nippon gained a total of 18 seconds on the downwind legs.

"We took the first wind shift, and they took the second shift," said Makoto Namba, skipper of Nippon Challenge, "and that second shift was the difference in the race."

Nippon, with sailing coach Peter Gilmour aboard again as the 17th man, won the start by 2 seconds and was ahead when they came together with Team New Zealand early in the first leg.

At the start of the first leg, Team New Zealand again sent crewman Murray Jones up the mast to watch for wind shifts, and Nippon flew a protest flag challenging the tactic. Nippon wants to know what type of communications equipment Jones is using while up the mast wearing a headset.

Cup rules allow intercom equipment, but not boat-to-boat or ship-to-shore communication during racing.

By the second meeting on the first leg, Coutts' crew had a slight advantage and tacked on top of Nippon.

"Boat speed, tactics and crew work are very even," said Namba. "We are looking forward to the next round."

In the two other challenger races yesterday, oneAustralia beat Spain, and Win New Zealand defeated France.

France and Spain are winless in this regatta.

Chris Dickson's TAG Heuer made significant gains on the French upwind and down, with Defi '95 gaining a total of 7 seconds on two legs.

Spain's 1-minute, 25-second loss to oneAustralia is misleading because Rioja de Espana was penalized

at the start and trailed by 41 seconds at the first mark.

Afterward, the racing was fairly close.

OneAustralia, which won the world championships in the International America's Cup Class last fall, launched a new boat Thursday and will race it in the next round-robin series at the end of the month.

The 17th person aboard Rioja de Espana yesterday was HRH Infanta Cristana de Borbon, daughter of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain.

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