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 Sunday, 19 January, 2003, 05:08 GMT
Alinghi win challenger series
Ernesto Bertarelli, Alinghi syndicate head
Alinghi boss Bertarelli kicks off the celebrations
Alinghi have won the Louis Vuitton Cup, earning the right to challenge America's Cup holders Team New Zealand in February.

The Swiss team beat US rivals Oracle on the Hauraki Gulf off Auckland on Sunday to take an unassailable 5-1 lead in the best-of-nine series.

Alinghi are controversially skippered by Kiwi Russell Coutts, who helped New Zealand win the America's Cup in 2000.

I think we had a very good tactical series

Russell Coutts
Alinghi skipper

Now he will have the opportunity to dethrone his compatriots when the best-of-nine battle for the Auld Mug begins on 15 February.

It will be the second straight time that the Cup will be contested by two non-US teams.

Alinghi beat software billionaire Larry Ellison's Oracle by two minutes 34 seconds in the sixth race of the challenger series final.

But the race was closer than that margin of victory made it sound.

Biotechnology heir Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi crossed the finish line only seconds ahead of Oracle.

Russell Coutts (left), skipper of Alinghi
Coutts cuts a controversial figure in Auckland

But the Americans were forced to execute a penalty turn, awarded against them from an incident during pre-start manoeuvres.

Racing had been delayed by almost two hours due to light winds.

Afterwards Coutts said his team had got their tactics just right against Oracle.

"I think we had a very good tactical series, particularly near the end," said Coutts.

"We were two very good teams, but I think we capitalized on our opportunities more than they did and that was the key."

Ellison was bitterly disappointed by the final outcome.

"It's no fun coming second but the best team won, they deserved to win," said Ellison, who added that he would be back to have another go.

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