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Kiwi crew hunt America's Cup upset

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/06/2017

Team USA might have the odds in their favour going into the first races of the America's Cup this weekend, but Peter Burling's New Zealand crew may yet take the wind out of their sails.

The Cup holders go into the first-to-seven event with a bonus point for topping the qualifiers series and, having based themselves in Bermuda since 2013, are also racing on home waters.

US skipper Jimmy Spithill and his crew, although outwardly confident, will not be taking anything for granted in their quest for a third successive win.

"I think you've got two of the best teams in the world going head-to-head in a real heavyweight battle and I'm expecting it's going to be one hell of a fight," Spithill said at a skippers' press conference on Friday.

Throughout the build-up to the America's Cup match series, Burling has looked the most relaxed helmsmen among the five challenger crews, although qualifying has been testing, and included a near-catastrophic capsize.

"It's been a massive effort to get this far, we've faced a lot of adversity over the last couple of weeks with things like the capsize.

"But our shore crew have really dug deep to get us a boat that's very close to 100 per cent for the finals," Burling said.

This America's Cup is a revenge match for New Zealand, who lost in 2013 after seeing an 8-1 lead overturned.

For one skipper who has raced against both teams, the final will be a battle between experience and determination against raw talent and confidence.

"On paper Jimmy Spithill has a lot of skill for that (America's Cup racing) and it's very natural for him," Team France skipper Franck Cammas told Reuters.

"But Peter Burling is young and he learns very quickly and he has a good boat... He's very confident with the speed of his boat and with that you can compete better," Cammas said

Spithill's ability to come out fighting even when his back is against the wall will count for a lot, he added.

"It's important to have psychological stability and Jimmy looks like even if he's in a bad position, he can always come back."

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