Alinghi Wins 5th Race Of America's Cup

Friday, June 29th 2007, 11:37 am
By: News On 6

VALENCIA, Spain (AP) _ The Kiwis lost half their sail, and the lead, and defending champion Alinghi rallied to win the fifth race of the America's Cup by 19 seconds Friday to go ahead 3-2 in the best-of-nine series.

Emirates Team New Zealand led the Swiss down the start of the second leg and was about to change its damaged spinnaker when a strong breeze ripped the lightweight sail in half.

The NZL-92 crew raised a new sail as it cut down the damaged one, but it failed to set in place. By the time a third sail was in place, Alinghi had sped past for a lead it would not relinquish despite an intense race to the finish.

``(New Zealand) sailed very well, it's a very strong group and we have to fight every race,'' Alinghi owner Ernesto Bertarelli said.

The sixth race for the Auld Mug, the oldest trophy in international sports, is scheduled for Saturday.

The Kiwis made a strong start _ in conditions expected to favor the Swiss team's boat _ but got into serious trouble on the first downwind lap. The boat's red kite dramatically blew apart just as the Kiwis were preparing to switch it after noticing a small hole near the top.

Alinghi's second straight win put the Swiss back in control of the closest series in 24 years.

Both teams utilized the strong sea breeze accompanied by hot weather. Stronger wind conditions were expected to favor the SUI-100 boat, but the NZL-92 yacht rounded the first marker with a 12-second advantage.

Team New Zealand's kite failure handed Alinghi a 26-second advantage around the second buoy. The margin was reduced to 24 seconds around the final marker, but Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth coolly covered each Kiwi move down the final run to maintain the lead.