VALENCIA, Spain (Reuters):
DESAFIO ESPANOL were on course for a top-four finish after seeing off direct rivals Shosholoza and Mascalzone Latino at the Louis Vuitton Cup yesterday.
The Spaniards started the day by overhauling the South African boat down the second leg, and steadily pulling away to win by 47 seconds after a torn kite did little to help Shosholoza's cause down the home stretch.
Later, they raced the re-match against Mascalzone. The Italians had beaten Desafio on Wednesday, but after an appeal by the Spaniards the jury called for a re-run, penalising Mascalzone for illegal use of backstays.
Use of second chance
The local favourites made full use of the second chance and, as they had in the race against Shosholoza, showed superior handling skills to come from behind and pass in the second leg, to win by 35 seconds.
Fourth-placed Desafio moved on to 27 points, turning the hunt for the last semi-final place into a three-way contest with Victory Challenge (22), and Mascalzone (20), with four sets of races left in the round robins.
The Swedes had a bye yesterday, while Mascalzone swept aside China Team by more than two minutes, earlier in the day.
Seventh-placed Shosholoza on 16 points can no longer catch Desafio.
Progress to the semis
The top four boats progress to the semi-finals. The Cup winners go on to face Swiss defenders Alinghi for the America's Cup at the end of June.
Leaders BMW Oracle and Luna Rossa confirmed their places in the semis, barring any jury decisions, with comfortable wins.
The two boats have 31 points and cannot be caught by fifth-placed Victory Challenge.
Oracle left Areva Challenge trailing to win by one minute 28 seconds while Luna Rossa won an Italian derby with +39 Challenge by one minute four seconds.
Emirates Team New Zealand stayed a point behind in third spot after a convincing victory over United Internet Team Germany.
Today, the battle for fourth place takes centre stage once again as Desafio race United Internet Team Germany, Shosholoza take on Mascalzone, and Areva face Victory Challenge.