Kiwis Advance to America's Cup

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By DOUG MELLGREN
The Associated Press
Wednesday, June 6, 2007; 4:28 PM

VALENCIA, Spain -- Emirates Team New Zealand is out to settle a score with defending champion Alinghi in the America's Cup.

The Kiwis completed a 5-0 sweep of Luna Rossa on Wednesday in the final of the Louis Vuitton Cup, giving Emirates Team New Zealand the right to challenge the Swiss boat for the Auld Mug.

The New Zealanders know what it's like to be outclassed 5-0. Four years ago, at home in Auckland, the Kiwis faced the same humiliation at the hands of Alinghi in the 2003 America's Cup.

"That was (a) bruising of our pride as a nation," said Dean Barker, the 34-year-old skipper of the Kiwi boat. "This is definitely huge for the team to come through and win the Louis Vuitton Cup."

Emirates Team New Zealand runner Tony Rae said meeting Alinghi again is a chance to settle "unfinished business."

"It's a great feeling that we can have another go at it," Rae said.

The stage was set for a rematch, starting June 23, after the Kiwis beat the Italian boat by 22 seconds in the fifth flight. Emirates Team New Zealand is the first team to go undefeated in the Louis Vuitton Cup in the 24-year history of the event.

The NZL-92 yacht docked in front of a marina lined with spectators to accept the silver-plated trophy. The Kiwis' Black Magic beat OneAustralia in 1995 before going on to beat Young America in the America's Cup.

Emirates Team New Zealand took the decisive lead near the top of the first marker, just as it has done throughout the series, and Luna Rossa was unable to catch up.

"We pushed as hard as we could, but it just wasn't enough. There were a lot of little things, but at the end of the day we were beaten by a team that sailed excellently," Luna Rossa helmsman James Spithill said.

The best-of-nine America's Cup series will feature a New Zealand team for the fourth straight time.

Four of the past six challengers series winners have gone on to win the Auld Mug, and Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth said the Kiwis would be a difficult opponent.


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© 2007 The Associated Press

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