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Luna Rossa beats Americans again for series lead

5/16/2007

VALENCIA, Spain -- Luna Rossa pinned BMW Oracle Racing to the left from the start Wednesday and then went on to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-nine Louis Vuitton Cup semifinals.

Desafio Espanol won the pre-start for the first time in three races against Emirates Team New Zealand and held on to win its first race. The Kiwis, who were penalized for gybing too closely before the boats started on a split, lead the series 2-1.

Luna Rossa helmsman James Spithill controlled his pre-start duel with BMW Oracle Racing skipper Chris Dickson for the third straight race as the ITA-94 yacht came in on a starboard start and held the right side as the USA-98 boat crossed slowly.

Dickson didn't stray far from the Italians, who came around the first marker with a 29-second lead.

The Americans were faster on the downwind leg, as they have been throughout the series, making up five seconds going around the third marker as Spithill shadowed Dickson.

But the advantage was too much to make up as the Italian syndicate led around the final marker -- it has led around every marker in all three races -- and Spithill held the USA-98 yacht off for the 31-second win.

Luna Rossa had lost to BMW Oracle at the finish line in the second flight Tuesday.

"Yesterday was a tough one to swallow, but you're never gonna change the result -- it is what it is," Spithill said. "It's really satisfying to see the boys step up to the challenge [today]. They delivered."

"We're still pretty happy with the way we sailed for the most part," BMW Oracle strategist Eric Doyle said. "They sailed as the conditions dictated."

Emirates Team New Zealand stayed tightly pressed to the back of the Spanish boat in a similar-styled race until they split on the upwind third leg after the Kiwis had cut the lead to eight seconds.

The teams tacked back at each other, but the Spanish got the better breeze and their gamble to go out to the right eventually worked, with Desafio Espanol opening up the space for a 1:14 win.

The team celebrated by waving a Spanish flag from the deck of the ESP-97 boat in front of a large spectator fleet, with many sporting the lime-green colors of the Spanish team.

Earlier, Desafio Espanol and BMW Oracle Racing were issued new measurement certificates after performing boat alterations before the start of Wednesday's sailing. The two teams have struggled with upwind boat speed in comparison to quick downwind performances throughout the semifinals of the America's Cup challengers series.

The semifinal winners will meet in the June 1-11 Louis Vuitton Cup, with the winner advancing to sail against defending champion Alinghi in the America's Cup from June 23-July 4.

The fourth flight of the match racing series is scheduled for Friday.