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2 November 2002, 10:45 am
Quarter Final Seeding Decided
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©Rick Tomlinson

America's Cup
Hauraki Gulf, Auckland

The important questions from the first two Round Robins have been answered.
Although there are still races to sail on Sunday, the Swiss Alinghi Challenge has finished at the head of the class and now enjoys the luxury of being able to choose its opponent for the Quarter-Finals.

Additionally, the two tiers of four have been determined, with OneWorld, Oracle BMW Racing and the Prada Challenge joining Alinghi in the top 'double chance' group.

In the bottom 'single-chance' group of four, Victory Challenge is on top, and can choose its opponent. It will be joined by the GBR Challenge, Team Dennis Conner and Le Défi AREVA, who won its 'winner-takes-all' match over Mascalzone Latino. The 'Latin Rascals' become the first team eliminated from the Louis Vuitton Cup.

There are some intriguing races left to sail, and Oracle BMW Racing has two matches left, but the results of these races can't affect who makes up the two groupings.

The remaining matches will affect the battle for second, third or fourth on the points table for OneWorld, Prada Challenge and Oracle BMW Racing. At first glance this isn't significant, as Alinghi chooses its opponent and the remaining pair race each other.

"We haven't decided who we'll pick," said Alinghi tactician Brad Butterworth. "Probably we'll be looking to pick the strongest team. There are different strategies you can take and one of them is to pick the strongest out of the four."

How Alinghi would assess who is the best is an open question.

"They're all pretty tough," admitted Butterworth. "On any given day any boat could win…we need to sit down and discuss who we should race…any one of those three boats is pretty potent."

For the remaining three teams in the top group, the fight is still on to finish as high as possible. The importance of that position won't become clear until the end of the Quarter-Finals, when the two losing teams from the double-chance group drop down and race the winning teams from the single-chance group. The top ranked team among those four gets to choose its opponent, and thus, finishing the Round Robins in second or third position could become very advantageous.

Making Prada's job easier is Alinghi's stated decision not to race on Sunday.

"With respect to Prada, we've talked to them of our decision not to race," said Butterworth. "We've actually found it quite tough over the last while so we're going to take a day off."

With Prada picking up a point from the match conceded by Alinghi on Sunday, Oracle BMW Racing now must win both its remaining matches against Le Défi and Victory Challenge to move up in the standings. Neither Le Défi, nor Victory, has any material incentive to race, although both have indicated they intend to be on the race course on Sunday.

Winning both matches will give Oracle BMW Racing 12 points, equal with OneWorld. Larry Ellison's Oracle BMW team would win the tie-break based on its victory over OneWorld in Round Robin Two and finish second, with OneWorld third.

If Oracle BMW wins just one of its two matches, it would sit equal with Prada on 11 points and the Italians would win the tie-break, leaving OneWorld second, Prada third, and Oracle BMW Racing in fourth position.

At the other end of the standings, Vincenzo Onorato's Mascalzone Latino has been eliminated from the Louis Vuitton Cup.

"I feel very bad," Onorato admitted at his final press conference. "This is a bad day for us, even if, since the beginning, I have said we are here to learn."

Despite the disappointment, Onorato says he can't wait until the next Louis Vuitton Cup.

"Of course," Onorato enthused. "We will come back for sure. We want to stay in this America's Cup game."

Syndicate Points
Alinghi (SUI) 13
One World Challenge (USA) 12"
Prada (ITA) 11
Oracle BMW Racing (USA) 10
Victory Challenge (SWE) 7
GBR Challenge (GBR) 7
Stars & Stripes (USA) 6
Le Defi Areva (FRA) 2
Mascalzone Latino (ITA) 1

" OneWorld has had one point deducted in accordance with an Arbitration Panel penalty.

Peter Rusch/ISAF News Editor
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