Kiwis ramp up performance on day two of America's Cup Act 12. Matthew Sheahan reports 23/6/06

 It was no secret that the Kiwis were as critical of their own performance a month ago as those who watched them. Crew handling errors, equipment failure and a timid approach to the pre-start were all areas where Emirates Team New Zealand appeared to be losing out.

Word on the dock was that team boss Grant Dalton wasn’t happy either and rightly so. With a new boat in the water and a limited amount of time to work themselves up to a level where they could take on Alinghi, and win, the Kiwis had to start throwing their weight around a bit more.

The opening two days of Act 12 suggest that the team may have turned that corner with a more assertive performance in both of their matches today. Sure, neither the race against the Swedes or the match against Mascalzone Latino should have resulted in a Kiwi loss, and they didn’t. But what should have impressed spectators was a more confident style throughout the race, but especially in the pre-start. Here, Barker looked to have the bone between his teeth as he pushed both his opponents around the playground before abandoning them to pick the favoured end of the line and cross it at maximum pace.

In the match against Mascalzone Latino the Kiwis even found time and opportunity to nail a penalty on the Italians before creaming off up the windward leg. Mascalzone Latino never stood a chance in this match, just as the Swedes hadn’t in the match before.

“It feels really good, there’s a good atmosphere onboard,” said Kiwi strategist Ray Davies. “We’re getting used to what we can and can’t do with handling, how we trim the sails and making sure we don’t stall the rudder. The more confident you get the more you can push it. Dean’s certainly gaining confidence with this boat now, as are the trimmers who are working really well together.”

The other team that has turned in an impressive performance is the Spanish Desafio Espanol. Despite very little time on the water with their brand new boat, the team has put in some solid performances, even though they didn’t come away with any more points today than they finished up with yesterday. Beating either Alinghi and BMW Oracle was always going to be a tall order, beating both was highly unlikely and yet the bright green team caused the Americans some grief in the afternoon and even managed to get a penalty on them.

Among those looking to draw positives out of a day that didn’t yield any more points, the Team China caught 39 napping at the start, got the hook on Percy as the two boats barrelled towards the start line and managed to dominate proceedings all the way to the weather mark, rounding ahead of Percy and his crew.

Losing one of their crew over the side and scoring a penalty in the process during the kite hoist wasn’t the best way of consolidating their lead and from there on the Chinese performance went downhill. But at the very least it showed the team that they have a hint of what it takes to get the upper hand, although keeping it seems to be the issue here.

Elsewhere, the dockside gossip continues to surround that of Mascalzone Latino’s problems with their new boat. The team continue to play the issue down, whereas the rumours now suggest that the structural issues are very serious.

So is the deadline. The Cup starts in 365 days from today and the clock is ticking.

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