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Italians edge out China Team

ITALY'S Luna Rossa beat China Team by a second yesterday to stay in contention in knockout racing among challengers at the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series sailing regatta.

Luna Rossa carried a penalty throughout the race after being trapped into an infringement 30 seconds before the start by China's British helmsman and world match racing champion Ian Williams.

The Italian yacht, helmed by American Peter Holmberg, led by 14 seconds at the first mark, 19 seconds at the second and 24 seconds at the third, but approached the finish line needing to complete a 360 degree turn to discharge the penalty.

Luna Rossa finally dropped its spinnaker and accomplished the turn just before crossing the finish line, slipping across with its bow narrowly ahead of the Chinese yacht.

The win means Luna Rossa will race BMW Oracle Racing of the US in the challenger quarterfinals.

Britain's TeamOrigin, which beat France's Pataugas K-Challenge by 1 minute, 52 seconds in the other sailoff, will race Italy's Damiani Italia Challenge in the second quarterfinal.

Quarterfinal winners meet in the semifinals for the right to race America's Cup-holder Alinghi in the best-of-five challenger series final. The winner of that match race hosts Team New Zealand over the best-of-seven races for the series title.

TeamOrigin posted a comfortable win in its clash with the K-Challenge. With Beijing Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie at the helm, TeamOrigin won the start and led by 9 seconds at the top mark.

K-Challenge led briefly after a slow spinnaker set by the British on the second leg, but Ainslie instituted a luffing attack which caused the French to incur a penalty.

Meanwhile, America's Cup court case is set for its final showdown.

Oral arguments are scheduled before the New York State Court of Appeals in Albany in the bitter case between San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club, which backs Ellison's BMW Oracle Racing, and Societe Nautique de Geneve, the Swiss club that backs Bertarelli's America's Cup champion Alinghi.


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