Sailing-New Zealand hit foiling high to set up America's Cup showdown

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.

Today's two wins take Emirates Team New Zealand to the top of the points table after Oracle Team USA lost their match against Artemis Racing.

The new cup format, with defender racing the challengers early on, and the contentious bonus point system, has created the ultimate showdown, on the second weekend of the regatta.

As holders, Oracle Team USA will be in the final, regardless of how well they perform in the qualifiers.

Unlike Britain's Land Rover BAR and Groupama Team France who built their own boats from scratch, Japan bought their design from the USA holders of the cup.

The Kiwis spent 100 per cent of the race “flying” across the water, with that mark long considered the holy grail of this style of Americas Cup Class boat.

It was a lead Peter Burling and his team would not relinquish, sailing magnificently and staying up on their foils for an incredible 99.6% of the whole race, finally easing over the finish line 51 seconds ahead of their Japanese rivals.

Artemis has looked very quick following it's lay day, having beaten Oracle Team USA not just once, but twice - the only defeats the defender has had in this series.

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He began experiencing handling problems mid-race though and fell back into the field after a first brush with the wall. The first race of Earnhardt's Cup Series career came at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte back in 1999.

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With Burling calmly steering the fast catamaran, the Kiwis became the first crew to sail around the seven-leg course entirely on hydrofoils, with the hulls never touching the water until just after the finish line.

"We're really happy that we've made it through this first round and we've got to this stage". It feels like every time we go out we sail better and we learn a lot.”. The Kiwis had to clear the penalty by slowing to two boat lengths behind Oracle.

"Really excited. The race against the Kiwis is going to be the decider for us in the bonus point".

After Saturday, Oracle will train on its own while the challengers sail their semifinals and finals.

In the first race of the day [Round Robin 2 race 8], Emirates Team New Zealand again showed their pedigree with a near ideal performance, easily overcoming SoftBank Team Japan.

Burling opted for a split once they reached the second gate nine seconds back, looking for a bit of help from the conditions on the upwind leg, and Team NZ were quickly able to close the gap and edge in front.

And their decision, announced at today's post-race press conference in Bermuda, leaves Dean Barker and Team Japan to face in-form Artemis Racing (Sweden) in the other semifinal, starting tomorrow.

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