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Light winds hit Cup repechage

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Team Dennis Conner was chosen by OneWorld for the repechage

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Team Dennis Conner

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Light winds have forced the first day of racing in the quarter-final repechage of the America's Cup challengers series to be postponed.

Saturday's news came after the wind in the Hauraki Gulf off New Zealand's largest city of Auckland stayed below the minimum seven knots needed for racing to start.

The two races scheduled between U.S. syndicates OneWorld and Team Dennis Conner and defending Louis Vuitton Cup challengers champions Prada of Italy and Sweden's Victory Challenge will now take place on Sunday, Reuters reported.

The winners will meet top-ranked Swiss team Alinghi and Oracle BMW Racing in the semifinals, while the losers will be eliminated.

Top-ranked syndicates Alinghi of Switzerland and software billionaire Larry Ellison's Oracle BMW Racing have already qualified for next month's semi-finals. Six teams remain from the original nine challengers in the Louis Vuitton Cup.

The winners of the challengers series will sail against holders Team New Zealand in the America's Cup in February 2003.

British team GBR and French team Le Defi Areva dropped out of contention after the quarterfinals, following Italian team Mascalzone Latino which came last after the round robins.

Team Dennis Conner tactician Terry Hutchinson said the team's recent form has given it renewed confidence, there is still room for improvement.

"Our team's come a long way, our boat's come a long way, but we still have a long way to go," Hutchinson said.

"You can't underestimate the fact that we still need to get a lot better to win."

OneWorld had a successful first round robin, ending the series unbeaten, while Team Dennis Conner had a mixed result of four wins and four losses.

Both teams struggled in round robin two, with OneWorld winning 5 races and Team Dennis Conner winning only two races from eight starts.

In the quarterfinals, Team Dennis Conner, sailing USA-77 for the first time and showing a bit more boat speed, dominated GBR.

OneWorld, however, fell in four straight races against Oracle BMW Racing.

Victory's project manager Mats Johansson said previous matches against Prada had been well matched.

"This is an outcome we have calculated and we found the most self evident," Johansson said.

"We know Prada have had a strong development lately. But also we have made huge progress."

Prada conceded defeat in the quarterfinals against Alinghi after three losses, saying they wanted to spend more time developing their yachts before the next round.

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