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Local Skipper Takes Two America's Cup Scalps In Steinlager Line 7 Prelims

Auckland, NZ, March 20, 1999-- Competition in the Steinlager Line 7 Cup match racing series in Auckland, NZ, started today, Saturday, March 20 with a Preliminary Series to decide the final three starters. The Principal Series starts Tuesday, March 23 and finishes Sunday, March 28. The format is two round robins, followed by a best-of-seven semi-finals and a best-of-seven finals. Short of the America's Cup, this year's Steinlager Line 7 Cup match race regatta has attracted one of the most powerful line-ups of match racers ever assembled in Auckland. The regatta has a hall of fame look about it with six of the seven skippers in the main draw either current or former America's Cup helmsmen.

PRESS RELEASE, March 20, 1999

Local Kiwi skipper Phil Douglas refused to be overawed by the pedigree of his opposition and claimed victory over two of three America's Cup helmsmen in the opening day of the Steinlager Line 7 preliminary series in Auckland today.

And, in his only loss of the day, he was narrowly beaten by America True helmsman, John Cutler.

Douglas' victories came at the expense of Francesco de Angelis of the Italian Prada crew, James Spithill, who is slated to helm Syd Fischer's Australian America's Cup entry, and British match racer Ian Williams. "It's been tight racing and good fun," said Douglas afterwards. Asked about finding himself up against America's Cup helmsmen, he replied: "I used to race against some of them in Lasers 15 years ago. I guess they have done a bit better than me in the intervening years. We have just been sailing on the local scene and this is our first attempt to get into the Steinlager Line 7. So far, so good."

Racing in gusty, shifty conditions on Auckland's Waitemata Harbour, Douglas' win over the Prada crew was the most satisfying, as they trailed all the way round the track, finally squeezing past on the last downwind leg of the race.

Said de Angelis, just back in Auckland from finishing third in the Congressional Cup in the United States: "They sailed a good race. They deserved to win. We made a mistake and paid for it."

Cutler and Douglas finished the day on top of the leaderboard with three wins each, although Cutler's win over Douglas gives him the advantage on countback.

"We had a reasonable day," said Cutler afterwards. "We were a bit rusty in a few areas, but it was good to finish the day on three wins from three starts. But, it is early days. There are 18 matches to sail before the preliminary event is decided, so we still have some work to do. But, it is nice to start on a positive note."

The top three finishers in the preliminary series go through to the main event, which starts in Auckland on Tuesday. Of the seven skippers already in the main draw, all but one of them is, or has been, an America's Cup campaigner.

They are Gavin Brady, currently ranked No.2 in the world and until recently a helmsman for America True, British veteran Chris Law, who has helmed in two America's Cup campaigns, former world champion Ed Baird, currently skipper of Young America, Dean Barker of Team New Zealand, Paul Cayard, skipper of AmericaOne, and New Zealand ace, Chris Dickson. "It makes for a lot of very good sailors," said de Angelis, "both in the preliminary series and the main event. There are no easy races. Every race you do in this kind of competition, gives you an opportunity to learn."

Results after Day One:

John Cutler (USA) 3-0
Phil Douglas (NZL) 3-1
Francesco de Angelis (ITA) 2-1
Dean Salthouse (NZL) 2-2
James Spithill (AUS) 1-2
Ian Williams (GBR) 1-2
Cameron Miles (AUS) 0-4

(Note: some crews have raced four matches and some three)

For more about this major match race series go to the Steinlager Line Seven Cup official web site. Also visit the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron site. For more in this series of reports, look at AmericaOne's Grand Prix Sailing News page.

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