AMERICA'S CUP / DAILY REPORT : CHALLENGER TRIALS : Il Moro di Venezia Sails Past Aussies

Associated Press

Italy's Il Moro di Venezia used an experimental lightweight sail to defeat Spirit of Australia Thursday as the top four boats of Round 2 scored lopsided victories in the America's Cup Challenger Trials.

Series leader New Zealand cruised past seventh-place Tre Kronor of Sweden by 5 minutes 37 seconds. New Zealand, skippered for the first time by Russell Coutts, had an elapsed time of 3 hours 1 minute 15 seconds for the eight-leg, 20.03-mile course on the Pacific Ocean off Point Loma.

Second-place Nippon, from Japan, overcame an early lead by Spain's sixth-place Espana '92 to win by 4 minutes 12 seconds, sailing around the course in 3:07:16.

Third-place Il Moro finished 7:48 ahead of fifth-place Spirit of Australia with an elapsed time of 3:10:50. Il Moro made sailing history by setting for the first time an experimental sail made of lightweight carbon-fiber fabric. Sails aboard America's Cup boats are typically made of kevlar, mylar and dacron.

France's Ville de Paris, in fourth place, breezed by last-place Challenge Australia to win by 7:18, completing the race in 3:03:26.

The racing was delayed for 1 hour 25 minutes due to light winds, which never went above 8 knots during the afternoon.

New Zealand has 26 points, followed by Nippon at 22 points, Il Moro with 21 points, Ville de Paris at 17 points, Spirit of Australia with 11 points, Espana '92 at 10 points, Tre Kronor with one point, and Challenge Australia, which is scoreless. Victories in Round 2 are worth four points each.

On Saturday, Ville de Paris will challenge New Zealand, Nippon meets Spirit of Australia, Espana '92 faces Il Moro di Venezia and Challenge Australia takes on Tre Kronor.

Today is a lay day.

A protest filed Wednesday by Espana '92 against match winner Ville de Paris was dismissed by the race jury. Had the protest been upheld, it could have reversed the race outcome. The Spanish claimed the French chase boat came too close to Espana while recovering a sail that had been cut loose from Ville de Paris.

Syd Fischer, head of the Challenge Australia syndicate, has offered rival countryman Iain Murray and his Spirit of Australia syndicate the use of his sail loft and laser sail cutter. Murray has been having his sails made in Australia and flown to San Diego. Murray, who will meet with Fischer today, has neither accepted nor refused the offer.

A replica of the schooner America, for which the America's Cup is named, is scheduled to sail into San Diego Bay this afternoon. The 101-foot yacht, owned by Ramon Mendoza of Madrid, Spain, will remain in San Diego through the America's Cup match in May, said spokeswoman Marisa Vallbona-Raynor. The black schooner was built in 1967.

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