'Magic' makes it four straight over 'America'


SAN DIEGO -- Everyone deserves his 15 minutes of fame, right?

And 15 minutes was just about the length of time in Race 4 of the America's Cup finals yesterday that the impossible scenario seemed possible.

Young America, sailed by the U.S. crew from Stars & Stripes, won the start by seven seconds, took what it thought was the favored right side of the course and sailed out to its first lead in a race since the beginning of hostilities last Saturday.

From this point (went the impossible possibility), Young America could use match-race tactics to hold New Zealand off and take the first race for the United States in this regatta.

Not quite.

Black Magic 1's spell was too great to break using such a mundane scenario.

About 15 minutes were all Young America got. New Zealand got the next two-plus hours and used the time to give the Americans another old-fashioned shellacking, this time by 3 minutes, 37 seconds.

That put New Zealand, with a 4-0 lead in the best-of-nine series, on the brink of capturing the Cup. A victory tomorrow would make the Kiwis only the second foreign challenger to win the Cup in its 144-year history, joining Australia, which victimized this year's defender, Dennis Conner, in 1983.

True, Paul Cayard did sail another winning start, and true, this time Young America got to the right with the first shift in its favor. And, also true, when the boats made their first cross partway up the first leg, Young America held its first lead at a cross in this regatta.

But then not only did Black Magic 1's boat speed kick in, but the wind got stronger on the Kiwis' side of the course at about the same time Young America made an error.

But wait. As if the Kiwis needed one more talisman from the gods of wind and wave, there was the appearance of Pelorous Jack.

Pelorous Jack is the sacred dolphin in New Zealand legend that led sailing ships through the treacherous Cook's Strait between the country's two islands. Near the first mark, realizing that he was hopelessly behind once again, Cayard held out his hands and asked whimsically, "What now?"

As Black Magic 1 and the gold-shirted New Zealand sailing team powered around the course, a school of dolphins suddenly appeared, leaping along in the water around the charmed black bow.

For more than two frustrating hours, the team of Stars & Stripes, in its rented boat, could do nothing but watch the magnificent sailing performance up ahead.

"Well, we have one more to win," said Russell Coutts, Black Magic 1 skipper. "But it looks now as if we're on our way."


Yesterday's result: Team New Zealand's Black Magic 1 def. Team Dennis Conner's Young America by 3 minutes, 37 seconds.

Series (best of nine): Team New Zealand leads, 4-0.


Race 5: Tomorrow

Race 6*: Sunday

Race 7*: Tuesday

Race 8*: Thursday

Race 9*: May 20

( *-If necessary. TV: ESPN

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