VALENCIA, Spain &
After four races, the America's Cup has rarely been this close.
Simple tactics saw Swiss boat Alinghi beat Emirates Team New Zealand by 30 seconds Wednesday to take the fourth race and even the best-of-nine series at 2-2.
The last time an America's Cup series was this tight, John Bertrand skippered Australia II past Dennis Connor's Liberty on the final lap for an improbable 4-3 series win in 1983.
It was the first time the Auld Mug, sport's oldest international trophy, left the United States since schooner America &
for which the competition is named &
won the inaugural race 132 years earlier.
The excitement has rubbed off on the competitors in a matchup that's turned into a playground scrap.
"This is tough school here, these guys are good," Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth said. "This is a great regatta, these are the two best teams in the game and it doesn't get any better than this.
"It's going to be very close to the end, and every day we have a win it's a great day for us."
With five of the six America's Cups since Australia II's win clean sweeps and the loser in only two of the previous 25 managing to secure two wins, Alinghi and New Zealand are turning it on.
In the Louis Vuitton Cup challengers' series, the team that got out in front stayed in front and the result were races with little drama, including a 5-0 sweep by the Kiwis over Italian boat Luna Rossa.
After the New Zealand team's improbable third-flight win &
it gave up a huge lead before winning it back on the final lap &
a series that was supposed to be a walkover for Alinghi is turning out to be close.
"What we have learned so far is that there is very little difference (between the teams)," Kiwi helmsman Dean Barker said. "I think we are still sizing each other up and it is purely coming down to which team sails better on the day."
Alinghi got back to basics and relied on traditional tactics to pin down the Kiwis and control the race in the fourth flight, but the contest was close from the start with little separating the two boats.
"The important thing is that we never lost our morale ... both the team and the boat is going well," Alinghi owner Ernesto Bertarelli said.
After hours of deliberation on today's rest day, a jury dismissed a protest lodged by the Kiwis over Alinghi's victory on Wednesday.
Alinghi crew member Pieter van Nieuwenhuyzen went up a mast to aid the release of the mainsail after the race committee boarded the boat for a measurement at the conclusion of the race. Rules state that the mainsail can only be released unaided from the deck.
Winds are expected to stabilize for the start of the fifth flight Friday after the past two races were subject to shifts and soft breezes.
Heading into 5th race, America's Cup is tightest in 24 years
VALENCIA, Spain &