Nippon are not yet waving sayonara to their dreams of sailing for the America's Cup, but they are struggling to survive after a communication breakdown on board Asura yesterday.

Nippon are not yet waving sayonara to their dreams of sailing for the America’s Cup, but they are struggling to survive after a communication breakdown on board Asura yesterday. It’s already au revoir Le Defi, who mathematically have no chance of going on to the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger final, and looking like see ya later America True, who have just one point. Nippon, ever the dark horses of the challengers, recorded their fourth loss from six starts yesterday, dipping out by 10 seconds to their arch rivals Stars & Stripes.

But after a partial victory off the water last night — Stars & Stripes docked a point for using an illegal rudder in their first semifinal meeting with Nippon — they could yet grab another point. Last night they were putting together a case to request the point stripped from Team Dennis Conner. AmericaOne and Prada are shaping up more and more like the challenger finalists. They had identical wins yesterday, striking crushing blows on France and America True. The chances of Dennis Conner’s one-boat campaign making it were hit hard last night, now they have two losses. Nippon’s downfall came down to their prestart antics. Skipper Peter Gilmour had Stars & Stripes in irons, until he tried to gybe next to the committee boat. Gilmour had no idea where the anchored boat was, until he saw his bow heading right for it.

He managed to avoid a smash, but launched an angry tirade at his crew. “Why didn’t someone tell me about the boat?” he yelled. “There are other people on this boat!” It pretty much explains the story of this Nippon campaign. Australian Gilmour appears to be the lone decision-maker on board. His tactician is young Kiwi Chris Main, who has never sailed in an America’s Cup before. “Initially I was annoyed with the crew. But in hindsight I now feel it was really my mistake,” Gilmour said. “They call me taicho — the coach — and they expect me to coach them through these circumstances. Today was a situation we just hadn’t seen before.”

In the calamity, Stars & Stripes were able to grab the favoured left hand side. Nippon drew even over on the right, but when the boats crossed Ken Read’s blue boat was ahead. Nippon challenged numerous times, the two boats’ speeds seemed the same, but even when they converged on the finish line from different angles, Stars & Stripes still had that edge they got at the very start. As seems to be the case in Auckland, getting the first windshift right is a matchwinner three times out of four. AmericaOne, who click up a notch every race, got it so right yesterday when they went left at the prerace advice of their Australian weather guru Roger “Clouds” Badham at the startline — when Le Defi France went right. End of story. Le Defi made gains downwind, but when you’re over a minute behind at the end of the upwind leg, you haven’t got much chance of overtaking the leader. Serious AmericaOne skipper Paul Cayard would not be drawn on the likelihood of his team making the final now. “We still have to win a lot of races to get in,” he said. Three more would do the trick, it seems.

Their likely opponents, Prada, simply had superior boatspeed to the hapless America True boat yesterday. They went right, but 30 seconds later dived back to the left and were immediately ahead of the Trues. Dawn Riley’s crew put up a fight, closing up on two of the runs, but were one minute 16 seconds behind at the finish. Prada skipper Francesco de Angelis said his crew had overcome the nightmare of a broken mast at the start of the week. “After working two years to get everything reliable, losing the mast was a big shock. It was good we got our act back together,” he said.