Near-perfect Kiwis take control of America's Cup qualifiers

America's Cup Event Authority Oracle Team USA competes against Soft Bank Team Japan

As the defending champions, Team USA will sit out the semi-finals and final of qualifying and await the challenger they produce for the 35th America's Cup.

Team USA are hoping that translates to a third straight victory in the America's Cup, and that Friday's defeat is just a blip on the radar.

The Kiwis' decision was surprisingly pre-empted by U.S. skipper Jimmy Spithill, who appeared before the challenger teams at the press conference and announced that his "leak" in Team NZ had told him of the BAR preference.

On the very last race of the round robin tournament on Friday, Team Emirates New Zealand achieved what they'd threatened to do earlier in the day and hit that magical mark of 100% foiling in beating Groupama Team France.

Emirates Team New Zealand is the top-seeded team and gets to pick its opponent from among Britain's Land Rover BAR, SoftBank Team Japan and Sweden's Artemis Racing.

Team New Zealand will have to wait until tomorrow to kick off their assault on the challenger semifinals, with racing on the opening day of the America's Cup play-offs abandoned for the day, due to light winds in Bermuda.

A broken rudder during race preparations made for a chaotic start for Oracle.

"I think the point could end up being incredibly important", said Spithill, who forced Team New Zealand skipper Peter Burling into a penalty at the start and won by 29 seconds in a race between the teams that sailed the epic 2013 America's Cup match.

New Zealand are seeking to avenge their 2013 defeat by Larry Ellison's Oracle Team USA in San Francisco.

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 look the team most likely to loosen Oracle Team USA's grip on the America's Cup in Bermuda, but there are fears that victory for New Zealand would throw plans for the event's future into disarray. Team New Zealand's only race Saturday is against the American-based crew.

Despite the setback, SoftBank Team Japan recovered brilliantly to close the gap to their rivals ahead of the next gate as the two teams crossed paths before the turn.

The result means the USA team supported by Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison will have a point lead against whoever gets to challenge them in head-to-head match, which will be won by the first team to get to seven points.

Team NZ finish the qualifying second, with an 8-2 win-loss record. In this photo provided by the America's Cup Event Authority, SoftBank Team Japan and Sweden's Artemis racing compete during America's Cup qualifying on the Great Sound in Bermuda on Friday, June 2, 2017.

Artemis and Japan look like their preparing to race and have gotten onto their racing boats while BAR aren't looking overly enthused.



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