Sailing: Japan test new design model for America's Cup challenge

June 3 (Reuters) - Oracle Team USA ensured they will start their defence of the America's Cup with a crucial extra point by beating Emirates Team New Zealand and Britain's Land Rover BAR to win the qualifier event on Saturday.

Ainslie is the most successful sailor in Olympic history with four gold medals and he was part of the Team Oracle USA who won the last America's Cup in 2013.

Two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA overcame a penalty at the start and passed stablemate SoftBank Team Japan to win by 32 seconds.

Ainslie and co went into their contest with New Zealand aiming to add to their two wins over Sweden's Artemis Racing.

Friday's racing could see Groupama Team France knocked out of the event if they fail to beat Emirates Team New Zealand in their duel scheduled for later in the session.

Getting an America's Cup boat on the water, let alone competing with Oracle Team USA and Artemis Racing which are both backed by billionaires, costs tens of millions of dollars. Five of the six teams in Bermuda, including Land Rover BAR, have signed a framework...

Over a shortened course, helmsman Peter Burling had finished nearly two legs ahead, when Sir Ben Ainslie officially retired from the race - the first withdrawal this week - to save his troops for another outing against France later in the day. Franck Cammas' team knew they had to win to keep their hopes of qualifying for the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Challenger Playoffs alive.

"We had a look at the forecast over the coming week and thought that it was our best chance of progressing forward", New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling said at a televised briefing.

We made some changes overnight and we are really happy with how we are going. "That race tomorrow between the Kiwis and us, that's the bonus point". They are very fast and so for us it will be a real battle.

Sweden have defeated America's Cup holders U.S. and close allies Team Japan twice each - including once each yesterday - showing they are more than capable of toppling the best.

'We are trying to do something vast here; bring the America's Cup back to Great Britain after 166 years, ' he said.

Great Britain got a slight edge at the start, but the Kiwis had superior acceleration speed and mowed Ainslie down on the first reach, forcing him into a shocking foiling gybe at the first mark where he lost power and came off his foils. "I just think, at the moment, they are struggling".

Although New Zealand fought back, a couple of uncharacteristic errors meant they were unable to get ahead of Spithill's 50-foot (15 metre) catamaran and were beaten easily by the holders of the oldest trophy in worldwide sport.

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