US beats Kiwis on opening day of America's Cup qualifiers

Tuesday, 30 May, 2017

Six teams are involved in a week of head-to-head racing after which defending champions Oracle Team USA will progress straight to the America's Cup match and four others will advance to the play-off semi-finals and finals for the right to take them on.

At the start the Swedes crossed the line early and had to serve a penalty allowing the New Zealanders to lead around the first mark.

There were protestations of "no way" and "completely rubbish" on the Swedish catamaran, which is crewed mostly by Australians.

It was serious enough to prompt the chief umpire to take a deep breath and mutter "Jesus Christ!". They then came out and got past Sweden's Artemis Racing in a thrilling start to the second ay with a 3s win. Still, there were nine lead changes on the seven-leg course.

It was just the first day of the most famous sailing event on the planet, but it might just be the most dramatic, with the British Team Ben Ainslie Racing's boat nearly crushing Team Japan's sailors during a sickening collision.

Sunday's results leave Britain second in the standings, level on three points with New Zealand and two points behind the United States of America team.

The penalty went against Land Rover BAR, who continued racing nursing the damaged boat around the course, with SoftBank Team Japan taking the win. "It got pretty ugly, pretty quick", he said, adding there had also been some damage to the Japanese boat. They are great guys, they've got us through some pretty rough patches in the past and hopefully they can do it again.

Each team races the other twice in the head-to-head match race format, with a point for the victor of each race. "I'm sure Pete and the boys enjoyed it as much as we did, probably a bit more at the end there". The American lead grew as Land Rover BAR came off its foils and buried its bows in the water just after the weather mark, a recurring problem.

Whitmarsh, though, argued there was little Ainslie could have done to avoid Japan's boat because when these boats turn, they accelerate and lift out of the water, meaning less daggerboard and less rudder, which in turn means you "side-slip".

Ainslie would be in real trouble if not for bringing in two bonus points earned during preliminary regattas. Oracle and the five challengers will compete in two round robins, which will eliminate one challenger.

Ben Ainslie's Land Rover BAR suffered a shock defeat on Monday at the hands of Groupama Team France in the America's Cup qualifiers, leaving the British crew with the worst record of the competition in Bermuda. After the round robins, Oracle will practice on its own while the challengers sail their semifinals and finals.

"Today showed just how hard racing can be out there", Artemis skipper Outteridge said on Sunday, the prestigious sailing event's second day.

The race was always going to be a close one, pitting old 49er adversaries Peter Burling and Blair Tuke up against Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen.

Team USA, who didn't race on Tuesday (NZT), lead the standings thanks to an extra point carried over after finishing second in the world series.

Meanwhile, Land Rover BAR helmsman Sir Ben Ainslie took the opportunity to praise his shore team for getting Rita to the start line after their collision with SoftBank Team Japan on the opening day.