Sports 101

New Zealand time may be 17 hours ahead of the United States, but that's not stopping ESPN2 from airing live coverage of the final round of America's Cup 2000, the world championship racing event. The network is well-equipped: It has onboard microphones and cameras, digital technology, and shots of some awesome wave action.

While there's no American team to root for, there's still plenty of excitement on the water between Team New Zealand and Prada of Italy. "I think we paint the picture of it as New Zealand versus Italy. Not two sailing teams, but two countries, now, against each other," says Gary Jobson, ESPN2's sailing analyst and a former America's Cup sailor. ESPN2 is airing the best-of-nine America's Cup (first to win five), which will sail until March 4, if necessary.

Q: Who's leading the race?

A: Team New Zealand, the America's Cup defender. The team took a 2-0 lead over Prada Challenge on Tuesday. Team New Zealand won the second race by 2 minutes and 43 seconds over Prada (Thursday's race was postponed because of low winds). The New Zealanders have a slight edge because they they won the Cup off San Diego in 1995 to become the second non-American boat, after Australia II in 1983, to win.

Q: What will happen if Italy wins and vice versa for New Zealand?

A: If Italy wins, they will be the first European team to win the Cup (known as the Auld Mug).

New Zealand, the team with the home-course advantage, is attempting to become the first non-US team to defend one of the oldest trophies in international sport (first awarded in 1851).

Q: What is the Hauraki Gulf and where is it?

A: It's where the races for the 30th America's Cup are taking place. The Hauraki Gulf lies off Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand. The gulf, protected from the Pacific Ocean by islands and a peninsula, is considered a perfect body of water for racing because the competitors are seldom exposed to big ocean swells.

Q: How were other teams eliminated?

A: Through a series of races held from October through December. Out of the 11 challengers, two competitors determined a winner (Italy) to face New Zealand.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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