Team New Zealand choose Britain as opponent for challenger semifinals

Clyde Nash
June 4, 2017

June 3 (Reuters) - Oracle Team USA ensured they will start their defence of the America's Cup with a crucial extra point by beating Emirates Team New Zealand and Britain's Land Rover BAR to win the qualifier event on Saturday.

A mad dash around the turquoise waters of Bermuda's Great Sound by heavyweights Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Team USA on Saturday could have a major impact on the 35th America's Cup match that starts in two weeks.

The first crew in each of the two semi-finals to win five races progresses to the challenger final and whoever wins that takes on defending champions Team USA for the America's Cup itself.

In this photo provided by the America's Cup Event Authority, Emirates Team New Zealand and SoftBank Team Japan compete during America's Cup qualifying on the Great Sound in Bermuda on Friday, June 2, 2017.

Helmsman Peter Burling reveals Team NZ have picked Ben Ainslie Racing as their opponent in the America's Cup challenger series semifinals.

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In todays other race, Artemis Racing comfortably beat Groupama Team France, who had already been eliminated.

Errors from Team NZ cost them three penalties on Sunday, something not missed by Spithill. But before then, the U.S. and New Zealand will cap the round robin with a rematch of the 2013 America's Cup match in San Francisco on Saturday.

Having failed to progress to the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Challenger Playoffs, Franck Cammas' team would have hoped to cause one last shock and beat the Swedish team for a second time.

That gives the USA team a point in the America's Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton, the final round of the events taking place now in Bermuda.

Trying to improve: But there was even better to come as New Zealand became the first team to achieve an official "perfect" race, foiling around the entire course without touching their hulls down to beat France by four minutes and six seconds.

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The Kiwi boat was able to mow down Oracle's early lead by halfway down the third-leg, but Burling was out-thought by Spithill for a second time just before the fourth mark, when New Zealand tacked underneath the USA boat when crossing would have seen them take the lead. The Kiwis reached match point at 8-1 and were way ahead in what would have been the clinching race, but it was abandoned after the time limit expired on a fluky day on San Francisco Bay.

Team NZ were ruled to have crossed the race boundary, incurring a two-length penalty. Oracle then won eight straight races in one of the greatest comebacks in sports to keep the Auld Mug.

In the second race of the day, Ben Ainslie's Land Rover BAR won a thrilling duel against SoftBank Team Japan, with the British crew getting the better of Dean Barker at the start.

Oracle has two races Saturday, the final day of the second round robin, and the Kiwis just one.

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