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AMERICAONE SAILS INTO CONTENTION

AmericaOne skipper Paul Cayard predicted the best-of-nine America's Cup challenger final would go at least seven races. Now he's made sure of it.

He did it by beating Prada of Italy by 34 seconds today, cutting his deficit to 3-2. He can pull into a tie Wednesday (12:30 a.m., ESPN2) despite equipment problems, ripped sails and injured crewmen that have plagued his boat.

Today, it was the Italians' turn to take a pounding.

Skipper Francesco de Angelis got hit by the boom, trailed in the critical start to the aggressive Cayard and lost control as his boat tipped over at a sharp angle, a broach, in response to the American helmsman's maneuvers on the fourth of the six legs.

So after five races, the battle for the right to face defending champion New Zealand in a best-of-nine final starting Feb. 19 is living up to forecasts. It's up for grabs.

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