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16 November 2002, 07:52 am
French Win First Quarter Final Match
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LeDefi Areva (FRA) ©Bob Grieser

America's Cup
Hauraki Gulf, Auckland

'Allez les bleus' is the battle cry of the national French sports teams, in honour of their jersey colour, and with a minor change to account for the bright yellow boat, the inspiration applied to Le Défi AREVA today.

The French surprised Victory Challenge with a come from behind win to stay alive in the best-of-seven Quarter Final, and prolong their stay in the Louis Vuitton Cup.

OneWorld didn't enjoy the same change in form as Oracle BMW Racing continued to roll through the Quarter Finals with a fourth consecutive win to knock OneWorld down to the Quarter Final Repechage. The Oracle BMW team now proceeds directly to the Semi Finals where it will meet Alinghi.

OneWorld Challenge, on the strength of its Round Robin record will pick its opponent for the Repechage, which starts on November 23rd.

Team Dennis Conner won its third consecutive race over GBR Challenge to take a 3-1 lead in their series.

On Friday night, Prada announced it would concede the fourth race, and thus the series, to Alinghi, in order to end its 'no-change' period immediately and continue its boat development programme.

Alinghi now proceeds directly to the Semi Finals, while Prada will have to sail in the Repechage round, scheduled to begin on November 23rd.

Conditions were difficult for racing today with strong 15-20 knot Westerlies bolstered by rain squalls streaking across the Hauraki Gulf.

LOUIS VUITTON CUP QUARTER-FINALS - RACE DAY FOUR

USA-76 BEAT ONEWORLD (USA-65) - DELTA 00:33
USA-76 WINS THE BEST-OF-SEVEN BY 4-0


This was a display of superior speed and no mistakes by USA-76 and helmsman Peter Holmberg from beginning to end. The two yachts left the startline more or less even, but with USA-76 at full pace and powering away under the lee of OneWorld. From the moment OneWorld helm James Spithill tacked away, USA-76 was in control and never relinquished it. The only danger came on the second downwind run when OneWorld brought down new breeze and reduced the gap from six boatlengths to two. But, USA-76 answered back on the next windward leg, stretching back to a 44 second lead and protected their advantage to the finish. OneWorld's skipper, Peter Gilmour, chose not to sail on board USA-65 today, so watched from a chase boat as his team went 4-0 down in the quarter final.

STARS & STRIPES (USA-77) BEAT WIGHT LIGHTNING (GBR-70) - DELTA 00:34
STARS & STRIPES LEADS BEST-OF-SEVEN SERIES BY 3-1


Today, for the first time, skipper Ian Walker took the helm for the start aboard Wight Lightning. Previously in the Quarter Finals, Andy Beadsworth had been the starting helmsman aboard the British boat, handing over to Walker after the start. According to the team, the overnight mode change to Wight Lightning had made the handling of GBR-70 more critical and the team decided that Walker was the better choice on this occasion. As the both boats entered the starting box, Wight Lightning entering on starboard and Stars & Stripes (with Ken Read helming) on port, a conventional dial up followed with both boats holding head to wind for some time and sailing backwards in the process. As the pair fell away to starboard it was Stars & Stripes who pushed and shoved Wight Lightning, eventually forcing them out to the right of the start area. With just 40-seconds to the start, Walker gybed, and couldn't get back to the start line in time. As the starting gun fired, Stars & Stripes had controlled the pre-start to the extent that Wight Lightning crossed the line 14-seconds behind. At the top of the first beat Stars & Stripes had opened their lead to 35 seconds. By the leeward mark the British boat had reduced this deficit to just 14 seconds after working the puffs and shifts on the downwind leg. From then on, despite showing bursts of speed both upwind and down, the deltas proved that the British team were unable to reduce the time difference at each of the subsequent mark roundings to less than twenty seconds.

LE DÉFI (FRA-69) BEAT ORM (SWE-73) - DELTA 00:34
ORM LEADS THE BEST-OF-SEVEN BY 3-1


France lives to fight another day after a remarkable turnaround on the last windward leg. The Swedes led around the second leeward mark by 31-seconds and looked to be extending to another comfortable win, but failed to cover and let the French pick up a right hand shift enabling Le Défi get right back into the match. In a gripping final portion of the beat, French skipper Philippe Presti saw a big left shift coming and used his starboard tack advantage to hunt the port tack Swedish boat. The Swedes responded and bore away sharply to cross behind the French boat who tacked into a slam dunk position to weather. The Swedes now in a strong leebow position would normally have forced the French to tack, but the large and progressive lefthand shift that the French had anticipated allowed the yellow boat to stay in control. A late and hard luff by Holmberg wasn't enough and the French sailed over the Swedes to lead around the weather mark. With the wind shifting to the left and increasing to 20 knots, Le Défi rounded the mark 17 seconds ahead and rolled straight into a gybe-set for the final leg. At this point things went from bad to worse for the Swedes when their spinnaker got into a tight wrap during the hoist. Le Défi was able to extend their lead to eight boat lengths as the foredeck team on Orm struggled to get things under control. The shift made the last leg into a fast reach and with pole set forward, the French romped home to a memorable victory and their first win in the Louis Vuitton Cup quarter final.

ALINGHI (SUI-64) WINS, LUNA ROSSA (ITA-74) DID NOT START
ALINGHI WINS THE BEST-OF-SEVEN BY 4-0


Louis Vuitton Media/ISAF News Editor
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