(Reuters) - Emirates Team New Zealand won their America’s Cup semi-final against Britain’s Land Rover BAR on Thursday, bouncing back from a near catastrophic capsize which had threatened their campaign to challenge holders Oracle Team USA.
New Zealand’s 5-2 victory over the British crew led by Ben Ainslie means they progress to the America’s Cup challenger play-offs this weekend when they will face either Sweden’s Artemis Racing or SoftBank Team Japan.
Helmsman Peter Burling thanked his shore team for getting the New Zealand catamaran back to racing condition after it “pitch-poled” in a semi-final race against Ainslie on Tuesday, damaging the hulls and shredding their towering “wing” sail.
“We are through into the #LVAC Finals!Thanks for a great battle @LandRoverBAR ! #etnz”, the New Zealand team tweeted.
The New Zealand crew have been outstanding throughout the 35th America’s Cup challenger races in Bermuda’s Great Sound, achieving the first 100 percent “flying” time, when the hulls stayed out of the water on foils for the whole race.
New Zealand won the first race of the day despite a poor start, piling the pressure on the British team who struggled to match their opponents for speed and stability.
Land Rover BAR managed to get away from New Zealand again and this time maintain their lead in the second race, matching their opponents for speed and managing to shake off the stability gremlins which have dogged them previously.
But in the final race of the day, Burling got the better start and barely looked back as he left Ainslie in his wake.
Both teams have had to overcome problems in their quest to become the challenger to America’s Cup holder Oracle Team USA.
Land Rover BAR lost two points on the first day of racing when they had a problem with their wing, but managed to get a point back on Tuesday when New Zealand capsized.
Ainslie thanked his crew at the end of the last race for the best performances of the competition, but their effort was not enough to fulfil the British dream to “bring the cup home” to Britain, where it was first won in 1851 by the schooner America.
“The challenge continues, we will be back stronger. Our goal to win the 36th America’s Cup starts today,” Land Rover BAR said on Twitter.
In the other semi-final encounter, Sweden’s Artemis Racing also managed to keep themselves in the contest, beating SoftBank Team Japan three times in a row to bring the score to 4-3.
The last encounter of the day between the Swedish and Japanese teams was decided by a penalty call near the end of race, when Japan’s skipper Dean Barker was judged not to have given Nathan Outteridge enough room around a mark.
“We knew we had the power and had to keep chipping away, we saw the opportunity and stole the victory,” Outteridge said in televised comments on BT Sport.
The winner of each first-to-five semi-final progresses to the challenger final and whoever wins that will take on Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup Match starting on June 17.
Reporting by Alexander Smith in London; editing by Louise Ireland and Jon Boyle