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Team NZ in pre-America's Cup collision

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/05/2017

Team New Zealand's rocky buildup to the America's Cup has plunged to a new low after their boat suffered damage in a collision in Bermuda.

The Kiwi outfit are fuming at British rivals Land Rover BAR, who they say are at fault for the pre-start prang on Wednesday (NZT) which has left a sizeable "dent" in their catamaran.

The incident, which British skipper Ben Ainslie described merely as a "love tap", comes little more than a week out from a start to racing in the regatta's qualifying series.

Team NZ chief executive Grant Dalton couldn't suppress his anger at what he says was poor manoeuvring from accomplished veteran Ainslie.

"We know Ben well, he is a good guy but frustration is obviously getting to him and the red mist came down and it's a lot of damage in a time we can't afford it," Dalton said in a Team NZ statement.

Kiwi helmsman Peter Burling was just as adamant that fellow-Olympic great Ainslie was at fault.

He said the British boat was "comprehensively shut out" in the last stages of the pre-start sequence.

"We had the leeward end of the line pretty locked down, Ben was quite late and just ran straight into the back of us." Burling said.

"We are all here to learn and it's a shame we have a pretty big metre dent now in the back of our nice boat."

Ainslie later responded with an apology, of sorts, via Twitter.

"Bit of a love tap racing hard with @EmiratesTeamNZ sorry guys and hope you're back on the water soon #AmericasCup," he tweeted.

It is unclear how much work will be required to repair the damage after the British boat's windward bow struck Team NZ's leeward hull.

A puncture was made in the cockpit area, near Burling's steering wheel.

The incident adds to what had been smaller problems over previous days.

They broke a rudder during a practice sail and have also learned lessons after two sailors - Burling and skipper Glenn Ashby - fell off the boat during other sessions.

The collision soured what had been an encouraging day for the Kiwi syndicate.

They won both of their earlier practice races, against the British boat and Groupama Team France.

Ashby said Cup defenders Oracle and Team Japan had refused to race against them.

"We got the boat around the track really well, in really nice yachting conditions," Ashby said.

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