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Team NZ lose to Team USA at America's Cup

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 27/05/2017 Daniel Gilhooly

Team New Zealand have lost a rollicking duel with America's Cup holders Team USA in the highlight of the opening day of the regatta in Bermuda.

In the first clash of the syndicates since the epic 2013 Cup Match in San Francisco, Team USA prevailed by a narrow six-second margin.

Earlier, both teams crushed Team France by more than 2min in their opening races.

Their tightly fought clash was a contrast, with the lead changing hands twice before Team USA made a decisive move at the end of the fifth leg.

Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill squeezed the Kiwis out of a turn at the gate to reclaim the lead and power clear early in the sixth of seven legs.

They held on to notch a win, kindling memories of four years ago when they fought back from 8-1 down to beat Team NZ 9-8 and retain the Auld Mug.

After an even start, Team USA led narrowly through the first two legs before Team NZ took advantage of a wind shift to pull 20sec clear after legs three and four.

Both boats look fast enough to make it to the final stage of the six-boat regatta, with their AC50 catamarans foiling without a hitch in their opening races.

Team NZ helmsman Peter Burling says the race is of immeasurable value to he and his crew.

"To go up against (Team USA) in the second race, it is who you are going to have to beat if we are to win this thing." he said.

"We are happy with how we checked in, the boat was going fast, our manoeuvres were going well, but we missed a few shifts up that last beat and probably made the wrong call at the top mark to let them slip through.

"But we feel we are right in the mix and we have plenty left in the tank from here."

By contrast, Team France lacked manoeuvrability and will be the favoured boat to drop out when the double round-robin qualifying series concludes next week.

Team NZ's start to the regatta was emphatic, with Burling dominating the pre-start exchange and hurtling clear of the French, pulling further away on every leg.

Burling and his five crewmates kept the boat stable on its foils throughout most of the race, powered by their innovative approach of using bike pedals to grind the winches, rather than the traditional arm-power.

Team NZ join Britain's BAR syndicate, Team Sweden and Team Japan in winning one of two races.

The most spectacular moment came in the pre-start of Britain's 48sec loss to the Japan boat skipped by Kiwi Dean Barker.

British counterpart Ben Ainslie was too slow to tack away and the boats collided heavily, leaving noticeable damage to the hull of Ainslie's boat.

Team Japan also suffered damage and former Team NZ skipper Barker says it was fortunate none of his crew were seriously injured.

Team NZ are scheduled to race their British and Japanese rivals on Monday (NZT).

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