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Team NZ choose to race Ainslie in semis

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 3/06/2017

Team New Zealand have selected Britain's BAR as their semi-final opponents in Bermuda, believing that will provide the smoothest pathway to challenge for the America's Cup.

Despite losing their final race of the qualifying series to Team USA on Sunday (NZT), the Kiwi syndicate finished first among the challengers.

That gave them the right to choose their opponents for the best-of-nine race semi-final stage, with the British boat their favoured opponent rather than Team Japan or the Swedish challengers.

Team NZ notched two comfortable qualifying round wins over the Ben Ainslie-skippered BAR and helsman Peter Burling hopes that can continue from Monday.

"We believe with the forecast over the coming week, that's our best chance of progressing through," Burling said.

"We're really happy that we've made it through this first round and we've got to this stage. Today was obviously a pretty good learning experience, we obviously weren't good enough out there, but we'll address that and come back stronger."

Team NZ won eight of their 10 races while the British boat managed only four wins, failing to match their lofty pre-regatta expectations.

Olympic great Ainslie admits he and his crew have plenty of work to do to match the slick Kiwis.

"Team NZ have proven through this qualifying round to be sailing really well and very fast over all the range of conditions, so for us, it will be a real battle," he said.

The Swedes (5-5) will start favourites to be the Japanese (3-7), with the semi-final winners squaring off in a final to determine which syndicate then challenges Team USA for the Auld Mug.

The defenders will take a bonus point into the best-of-13 Cup Match in late June, their reward for clinching victory in the qualifying series with their 29-second defeat of Team NZ.

The Kiwis struggled to match the aggressive approach of Team USA skipper James Spithill, committing three penalties which cost a total of six boat lengths.

One penalty came in the pre-start while there was a decisive moment at the start of the fifth leg upwind.

Team NZ were ruled to have crossed the race boundary, incurring a two-length penalty.

The boat slowed but not sufficiently in the eyes of course umpires, who issued another penalty.

The three remaining races on Sunday carried little meaning aside from racing practice.

Team USA made it two-from-two with a comfortable defeat of BAR in their last race before a two-week period of development.

BAR beat Team Japan by 13 seconds while the Swedish syndicate crushed the already-eliminated Team France by more than two minutes.

Final qualifying series standings: Team USA 8 wins 2 losses (9 points), Team NZ 8-2 (8), British BAR 4-6 (6), Team Sweden 5-5 (5), Team Japan 3-7 (3), Team France 2-8 (2).

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