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PRESS RELEASE - STEINLAGER/LINE 7 CUP, EVENT ONE OF THE SWEDISH MATCH TOUR.

AUCKLAND - 25/03/00

"Today was a special day," said Frenchman Bertrand Pace, as he stepped ashore after winning the Steinlager Line 7 Cup on Auckland's Waitemata Harbour. The skipper of the America's Cup challenger Le Defi Francais had put up a very convincing performance, to beat Team New Zealand sailor Cameron Appleton in three straight races.

Asked about how he kept up the passion for sailing after grinding his way through five months of the Louis Vuitton Cup, he said he had been for a holiday in New Caledonia with his family. "Now I am happy to sail a small boat, after six months of sailing the big America's Cup class boats," he said, and plans more events on the Swedish Match Tour this year. From Auckland he and his crew fly straight to Perth for the Sun Microsystems Australia Cup, which starts on Tuesday, the second of eight events on this grand prix Tour that is attracting most of the major America's Cup teams.

The conditions on the Waitemata Harbour were indeed tricky on Saturday, with a fickle southerly breeze, and a strong outgoing tide giving the tacticians a real headache. In the opening race the French team came off the starting line well, and found their own private gust of wind that accelerated them into a handy lead, which Appleton was never able to threaten. In fact the Team New Zealand crew also managed to find a completely windless patch on the second lap, letting Pace sail away to a 4 minute, 7 second win.

The second match was much tighter, with the Frenchman only 34 seconds ahead at the first mark, and the locals fighting back to force a neck-and-neck duel down the last leg, with the French taking the gun by just four seconds.

With his back against the wall in the first-to-win-three final series, Appleton and his crew came into the pre-start manoeuvring of the third race with all guns blazing, and threw some very aggressive moves at the French. Pace was superbly calm under pressure, and managed to grab the initiative in the final second before the start, to lead off the line, and by the first mark had established a 17 second advantage, which he built on for a winning margin of 59 seconds.

In the all Kiwi sail off for third and fourth places, Team New Zealand's new "golden boy" Dean Barker, won a very hard fought best-of-three race series against AmericaOne's Gavin Brady, by two races to one. - John Roberson

FINAL OVERALL POSITIONS: 1. Bertrand Pace (France) 2. Cameron Appleton (New Zealand) 3. Dean Barker (New Zealand) 4. Gavin Brady (New Zealand) 5. Chris Dickson (New Zealand) 6. Andy Green (Britain) 7. Peter Holmberg (US Virgin Islands) 8. Peter Gilmour (Japan) 9. Magnus Holmberg (Sweden) 10. Jes Gram-Hansen (Denmark)

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