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Americans finish 2d; Italy is next

Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker topped the Louis Vuitton Cup standings after defeating BMW Oracle Racing yesterday. (DANI CARDONA/REUTERS)

VALENCIA, Spain -- American entry BMW Oracle Racing and three other teams moved closer to earning the right to sail against defending champion Alinghi after nearly three weeks of America's Cup challengers series racing.

Emirates Team New Zealand topped the Louis Vuitton standings by defeating BMW Oracle Racing yesterday. The Kiwis won by 1 minute 34 seconds in the 11th flight race to finish with 38 points, one more than BMW Oracle Racing, which had led since the April 20 first race.

The first-place finish allowed Emirates Team New Zealand to pick fourth-place Desafio Espanol for the best-of-nine semifinals, which start Monday.

"It's a little bit of choose your poison," Kiwis skipper Dean Barker said. "It's always difficult when you look at the different teams and the results you've had. In a match-racing event you choose a team you feel you're most comfortable against."

Despite the loss to the Kiwis, BMW Oracle Racing skipper Chris Dickson said his team would be ready for third-place Luna Rossa of Italy.

Dickson said the challengers series promised to yield a tough adversary for Alinghi.

"The challenger group as a whole is very, very strong. I think we're all stronger today than three weeks ago when we started round-robin racing," Dickson said.

Luna Rossa finished with 35 points after winning by 1:54 over Desafio Espanol, which ended with 29.

With four days until the start of the next series, not all were rushing back out .

"We'll take two days off to gather energy," Karol Jablonski said. "What you haven't done in 2 1/2 years you're not going to finish in two days."

Also on "Romeo," Mascalzone Latino finished sixth after beating fifth-place Victory Challenge by 38 seconds.

On the "Juliet" course, +39 Challenge of Italy beat United Internet Team Germany by 30 seconds for its third straight win, and Shosholoza beat Areva Challenge by 14 seconds to finish seventh.

Last-place China Team raced its final match on Tuesday, losing by 1:57 to +39 Challenge.

The America's Cup final against defending champion Alinghi will be June 23-July 4.