Switzerland's Alinghi is just one step away from bringing the America's Cup to Europe for the first time in the competition's 152-year history.This content was published on February 28, 2003 - 07:45
Alinghi extended its lead in the best-of-nine series, with a fourth straight victory over defending champions Team New Zealand.
The Kiwis' chances of catching the Swiss are now looking more and more remote - no team has ever come back from a 0-4 deficit in the history of the competition.
Hopes of a comeback in the fourth race were shattered when Team New Zealand's mast snapped in strong winds and worsening conditions in Hauraki Gulf off Auckland.
Alinghi was able to sail on alone and complete the race, leaving the home country's dreams of retaining the America's Cup in pieces.
Cup holders Team New Zealand also pulled out of the first race with gear damage after taking on water in heavy seas.
Brad Butterworth, Alinghi's tactician, was delighted with the result but refused to accept that the race for the America's Cup was now over.
"We sort of take each race as it comes and haven't really thought about the final result," he said. "We always find it bad luck to think like that."
Disaster struck for Team New Zealand around an hour into the race. Both boats were on the third leg of the six-leg race, with Alinghi more than three boat-lengths ahead.
The two boats were taking on water as swells rose to over a metre. The wind had increased to 26 knots and heavy rain was cutting visibility.
Team New Zealand bounced over two big waves and then the mast snapped around a third of the way up.
Three New Zealand crewmen were thrown into the sea by the force of the dismasting.
"We just have to take this on the chin again and move on," said Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker. "It obviously hasn't been a fairy-tale run for us."
New Zealand plan to replace their broken mast with the one from their back-up boat in order to be ready for the next race on Saturday.
The Swiss team's fourth win in the series came after racing was postponed six times over nine days due to extreme wind conditions.
The repeated postponements in Auckland had become an issue, with Ernesto Bertarelli, the head of the Alinghi syndicate, questioning the impartiality of the race committee.
Bertarelli called the race management a "zoo" when the race four was postponed on Sunday for the third time in as many days because of light, shifting winds.
The biotech billionaire said his team was ready to sail and had managed to practice after the race was called off in conditions considered unsuitable by the race committee.
The committee is appointed by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, the holder of the Cup.
Some observers said the postponements had favoured Team New Zealand, giving the Kiwis more time to prepare and literally taking the wind out of Alinghi's sails.
Bertarelli called for a change in the way that Cup racing is organised. "We really need to have an independent race committee who decides when a race takes place," he said.
However, the issue appears to have been a storm in a teacup, since Team New Zealand is still looking for its first win of the series against the Swiss.
swissinfo with agencies
The Kiwis' chances of catching the Swiss are looking remote - no team has ever come back from a 0-4 deficit in the history of the competition.
The fourth race had been postponed six times due to extreme wind conditions.
Alinghi boss, Ernesto Bertarelli, has criticised the delays saying conditions have been fine for racing.
Some observers said the postponements had favoured Team New Zealand, giving the Kiwis more time to prepare.
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