Sailing-Oracle Team USA get America's Cup headstart with New Zealand win

America's Cup Event Authority Groupama Team France and Great Britain's Land Rover BAR compete during America's Cup qualifying on the Great Sound in Bermuda on Thursday

Sir Ben Ainslie's team bounce back to secure America's Cup play-off place

Emirates Team New Zealand, the hard-luck loser in the 2013 America's Cup, has 8 points, one more than two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA.

The Kiwis have shown they can thrive in light winds so Peter Burling and his team won't mind if the winds remain light.

Emirates Team New Zealand was almost ideal in winning two races to jump to 8 points in the qualifiers, one more than Oracle.

The crews in the first scheduled semi-final, Emirates Team New Zealand and Britain's Land Rover BAR, sat on board their catamarans in Bermuda's Great Sound waiting to see if the wind would build, trying to stay out of the beating sun.

The New Zealand and Swedish crews dominated their races from start to finish, making few mistakes and giving their opponents little chance to pass, while the French boat once again looked wobbly on its foils at times, losing them crucial seconds.

But before then, the U.S. and New Zealand will cap the round robin with a rematch of the 2013 America's Cup match in San Francisco on Saturday.

As such, they will take a bonus point with them into the best-of-13 Cup Match, effectively the regatta final, later in the month.

Emirates Team New Zealand broke through the next great barrier in sailing as they cruised to victory over Groupama Team France in the Louis Vuitton Americas Cup Qualifiers yesterday.

The second race of the day, [Round Robin 2 race 13] saw Land Rover BAR and Sir Ben Ainslie put on a dominant display in their first of two races, as they overcame Dean Barker's SoftBank Team Japan.

Burling was far happier about his teams continued progression, which has led to them climbing to the top of the standings to become favourites to ultimately challenge Oracle Team USA for the Americas Cup in two weeks time.

And although Japan's close ties to the USA defenders have raised some questions over independence, skipper and CEO Barker says they operate separately on key areas of designing and configuring their catamarans.

Emirates Team New Zealand recovered superbly to close the deficit completely by gate 3 as the teams headed into the turn together.

"Team NZ have beaten BAR twice already this week, including the walkover on Friday (NZT), when the Kiwis nearly lapped their rivals, who withdrew with two legs remaining".

In one of the many radical departures from tradition, this is the first time the defender has sailed against challengers in the preliminaries.

The knowledge they have gained of the winds and conditions of Bermuda's Great Sound is also a potential advantage for tactician Chris Draper and the crew.

Ainslie had previously said he thought Team New Zealand's relative strength in light airs was one of the reasons they chose his team as their semi-final opponent. In other races, Land Rover BAR beat Team Japan and Artemis Racing beat Groupama Team France, which was eliminated Friday.

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