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

04 June, 2017, 06:30 | Author: Greg Santos

With eight wins out of nine, New Zealand now need to beat Oracle Team USA to claim a bonus point which will give them an immediate advantage in the America's Cup final if they become the official challenger for global sport's oldest trophy.

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 first crew in each of the two semi-finals to win five races progresses to the challenger final and whoever wins that takes on holders Oracle Team USA for the America's Cup itself.

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

Sir Ben Ainslie insists he is up for the challenge ahead of a head-to-head battle with in-form New Zealand to keep alive his America's Cup dreams.

The normally crack Kiwi crew was penalized twice, including at the start when it forced Oracle, the right-of-way boat, to bear away as the 50-foot catamarans jockeyed for position at the line.

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

It figures that the new-look qualifiers would come down to a showdown between the two powerhouse rivals that will forever be linked by the epic 2013 America's Cup.

Sweden won comfortably over Groupama Team France, who had already been eliminated from contention on Friday.

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He's followed it up with four straight pars and two consecutive birdies, putting him at 13-under and six shots clear of the field. Spieth joined Daniel Summerhays at six under, while fellow Americans Lucas Glover and Justin Thomas are at five under.

Oracle will now train on its own while the challengers sail their semifinals, which start Sunday, and finals.

There are three Japanese members of the team, with its general manager Kazuhiko Sofuku competing in his fourth America's Cup, while Olympic sailor Yugo Yoshida and rower Yuki Kasatani make their debuts. But before then, the USA and New Zealand will cap the round robin with a rematch of the 2013 America's Cup match in San Francisco on Saturday.

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

The victory capped off a thrilling Louis Vuitton America's Cup Qualifiers which ended with Oracle Team USA topping the standings with nine points. The Kiwis reached match point at 8-1, but what could have been the deciding race was abandoned as the time limit expired on a fluky day on San Francisco Bay.

Jimmy Spithill's Oracle Team USA headed into the day one place and one point behind Peter Burling's Emirates Team New Zealand who sat on top of the pile on eight points.

Later Saturday, Oracle faced Land Rover BAR in the final race of round robin two.

The Team NZ choice leaves Sweden's Artemis Racing and SoftBank Team Japan as the other semi-final opponents.

The opening two races on both side of the semifinal draw will be sailed on Monday (NZ time).

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