SAN DIEGO -- A week ago, after America3 had lost the closest race in America's Cup history to Italy's Il Moro di Venezia, Bill Koch and his U.S. team were on the spot.
The word was that they were inexperienced and couldn't handle the pressure of racing against a top-notch international crew.
Yesterday, in Race 5, America3 handled the pressure nicely and sent Paul Cayard out of the 28th America's Cup with a 44-second victory.
It was America3's third straight victory and gave it the best-of-seven series, 4-1.
"I want to say that today we are proud to be Americans," said Koch, a Kansas oilman who was the primary financial backer of the America3 defense. "This was a triumph for America and America's technology and American teamwork."
Cayard, who was chosen to win here by 75 percent of the international media covering this event, said that during the past several days his Italian team has been outclassed by the Americans.
"They sailed a good race," Cayard said. "In fact, they sailed good races all week."
America3 won races 3 and 4 by margins of 1 minute, 58 seconds and 1:04. They won Race 1 by 30 seconds a week ago Saturday.
The Italians' victory in Race 2 was by three seconds.
America3 helmsman Buddy Melges, who shares steering the boat with Koch, said starting helmsman and tactician Dave Dellenbaugh was the difference in the regatta.
"It is difficult to say who is the most valuable player, but that award should be given to Dellenbaugh for his starts, his tactics, everything," Melges said. "He is cool-headed Jones. Man, he is terrific."
In all four America3 victories, Dellenbaugh has managed to get ++ the preferred position at the start.
In the prestart yesterday, America3 developed a small tear in its mainsail, and sent bowman Jerry Kirby up the mast to patch it.
With Kirby up the mast, America3 could not tack without endangering its bowman, and Il Moro seemed to enjoy an advantage.
Kirby, however, was able to complete a temporary repair, and the two boats started dead even, six seconds after the gun.
The U.S. boat also sailed with a faulty mast ram and had limited control over the bend in its spar.
On the first windward leg, Il Moro, carrying a light-air carbon fiber mainsail, kept close to America3. However, the U.S. boat, even with a jiffy-patched main, was fast enough to step out to a four-boat lead early and able to make the first choice in playing the shifting, 12-knot breeze.
Through a dozen and a half exchanges on the leg, America3's strategy seemed to be to tack on top of Il Moro and force it away, into air and seas disturbed by the passing of the U.S. boat.
"It seemed whether you tried straight-lining or a tacking duel, once they got the lead, America3 was tough to get around today," Cayard said. "In fact, on the first beat, we were pretty lucky because we had the right [side of the course] and the wind was going right."
But America3's edge in straight-line boat speed enabled the U.S. boat to take the right side of the course.
"And then they really stretched their lead," Cayard said.
At the first mark, America 3 approached on starboard and turned with a lead of 18 seconds.
Il Moro, approaching on port tack, was forced to stand beyond the mark before making the turn.
Where Kirby's quick fix on America3's main seemed to be holding up well, the Italians were hindered by broken battens in the upper area of the new mainsail on the first downwind leg. Cayard said after the race that the battens had been broken during prestart maneuvers.
At the end of the first leg downwind, America3 had opened its lead to 20 seconds.
On the second leg to windward, the race committee signaled a change of course to 270 degrees.
Through most of the leg, America3 continued to apply a loose cover while extending the length of its tacks and almost doubling its lead to lead by 38 seconds at the second windward mark.
On the first reaching leg, with the wind up to 14 knots at the mark, Il Moro set a masthead gennaker, which blew out almost immediately. By the end of the leg, with Koch at the wheel, America3 led by 51 seconds.
On the second reaching leg, Il Moro flew a gennaker and staysail and reduced the U.S. lead to 35 seconds.
Koch completed his three reaching legs at the wheel by regaining four seconds at the second leeward mark.
Koch, the amateur helmsman whose syndicate has spent $65 million to sail in this regatta, kept the helm to start the last leg to windward.
Cayard tried to attack, perhaps hoping that the inexperienced Koch would make a mistake, but America3, as they had throughout each of their victories in the regatta, relied on boat speed rather than engaging in close tactics.
Toward the top of the leg, Koch returned the helm to Melges.
At the turn toward home, America3's lead had been cut to 24 seconds, a gain of 15 for Il Moro.
On the final leg of the race, downwind in 10 knots of breeze, with Melges at the wheel, America3 gained 20 seconds to win by 44.
"This is totally the greatest," Melges said. "It goes right along with gold medal of mine [1972 Olympics, Soling]." Melges is the first person to win an Olympic gold medal and an America's Cup.
Before winning yesterday's race, Koch was asked whether he would be back to defend the Cup in 1995.
Koch said that would depend on who's paying the bill.