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BLACK DAYS FOR BLUE BOAT

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An equipment protest and an early start have combined to set Stars and Stripes two points out of second place in the Louis Vuitton Cup to challenge for the America's Cup. Only two teams will advance from the semi finals.
A protest by the Nippon Challenge last week, contesting the use of an Australian built rudder, was resolved on Sunday with the penalty of the point Team Dennis Conner had gained by winning the race against Nippon on the water. Nippon was not awarded a point however.
In the Louis Vuitton semifinals, every win is worth one point, with a total of ten races sailed by each boat.
The protest room setback was followed by a tough race on the water. The match between Stars and Stripes and Prada, the highly ranked Italian Team, started with Stars and Stripes just over the start line. The return behind the line at the start gave Prada a 40-second lead right off the bat. Helmsman Ken Read and his crew, including the V.I.'s Peter Holmberg, closed the gap on the down wind legs, but were unable to get close enough to pass.
Torben Grael, tactician on Luna Rossa, on beating Stars & Stripes: "We had a fantastic start today. Francesco had the side I wanted to be. We were full speed going the right way, right on the gun. We had a good lead with Stars & Stripes being over the line. It was unlucky for them and good for us. What happened basically was not a speed problem."
Paul Cayard's AmericaOne team leads the semi finals with six point and three races remaining. Prada is in second with five points and three races. Team Dennis Conner now is in third with three points, however due to time taken for damage repair, they have four races left.

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