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Prada Team Tops Leader Board in Steinlager Line 7 Preliminary Series

Auckland, NZ, March 21, 1999-- Competition in the Steinlager Line 7 Cup match racing series in Auckland, NZ, started 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 21, 1999

Francesco de Angelis and his crew from the Italian Prada America's Cup team top the leaderboard in the preliminary series of the Steinlager Line 7 Cup match race regatta after a long day's racing in Auckland today. But, with another set of matches still to sail in Round Robin Two, followed by an entire third round robin tomorrow, there is nothing foregone about the result at all.

"We all just go back to square one tomorrow," said John Cutler of America True.

At the close of sailing today, De Angelis tops the board with nine wins, Cutler is one back on eight and local sailor Phil Douglas on six. On the form so far, de Angelis, Cutler and Douglas look like the likely winners of the three vacant places in the main event, but there is a bunch just behind who have made big moves today and could threaten the top three in the final round.

New Zealand sailor Dean Salthouse is on five wins, British match racer Ian Williams is on 4.5 and Australian America's Cup prospect James Spithill on four.

All the skippers commented on a tough day's racing today as the south to south-westerly breeze shifted and varied in strength. "It was very tricky," said de Angelis. "We had shifty winds, lots of current, puffs and holes. It was hard work."

The only real drama of the day came in a match between Spithill and Williams. Williams was leading into the leeward mark, but made a wide rounding, which enabled Spithill to sneak in on the inside. Williams luffed hard and Spithill copped a penalty, but the two boats collided, leaving a hole in the bow of the British yacht.

In a post-race hearing on the dock, Williams was penalised half a point and will have to pay for the damage on the basis that, even though he held the right of way, he should have avoided the collision.

The top three finishers in the preliminary series go through to the main event, which starts in Auckland on Wednesday. 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.

Preliminary Series Results after Day Two:

Francesco de Angelis (ITA) 9 pts
John Cutler (USA) 8 pts
Phil Douglas (NZL) 6 pts
Dean Salthouse (NZL) 5 pts
Ian Williams (GBR) 4.5 pts
James Spithill (AUS) 4 pts
Cameron Miles (AUS) 2 pts

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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