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Signs encouraging for Team NZ in Bermuda

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 5/06/2017

An abbreviated opening America's Cup duel with Ben Ainslie's BAR has shown some encouraging signs for Team New Zealand, skipper Glenn Ashby says.

The British crew lost two the first two races in the best-of-nine semi-final series, forced to retire after a part in their wing sail snapped in the opening race.

Their shore team couldn't repair their boat in time for race two.

"We have forfeited racing today due to damage to our wing, we will be back tomorrow to fight another day," BAR Racing said on Twitter.

The battle had been billed as a potential classic, with the British boat expected to drive the action in the start box.

Ainslie had warned he'd be the aggressor and he hounded Kiwi helmsman Peter Burling in the duel looking for the hook.

But the young Kiwi skipper bobbed and weaved his way to the line to fend off the British attack, keeping his distance to windward.

Ainslie started slightly ahead of Team NZ but Burling simply picked up the pace to overhaul BAR at more than 40 knots and led by four seconds at mark one.

Picking up two more seconds at the second mark, the Kiwis were in control, but it proved to be academic when gear failure hit the British boat.

"We were really pleased with the way we got away in that first race," Ashby said.

"We had a really good pre-start tussle with those guys, we were pushing the boats to the limit of what you can potentially do and we got the best of them, I think.

"Obviously we're really happy to get the two points in the semi-finals but unfortunately not the way we would like to, over a wounded opponent."

Conditions on Bermuda's Great Sound were perfect for the high-octane sailing boats following disappointment on Sunday when racing was postponed due to a lack of wind.

Ashby said strong winds were predicted for day two, which would test Team NZ's preparations.

"We will have to make sure our reliability is sound, and that we can actually manage the boat around the track in tomorrow's conditions."

In the other semi-final series, Team Japan and Sweden shared honours in winning a race apiece.

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