Sailing-New Zealand pick Britain as America's Cup semi-final foe

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June 3 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.

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.

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 Oracle Team USA for the America's Cup itself.

It was back to earth with a bump today for Emirates Team New Zealand, as the Kiwis were handed a match-racing lesson from Oracle Team USA in an error-strewn end to the qualifying series.

Oracle punctured Team Zealands hopes of winning the qualifiers to claim the one-point advantage heading into the first-to-seven series, which starts in two weeks. The American-based team, owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, made it onto the course but lost to Artemis by 24 seconds. Also Saturday, the British boat beat Team Japan and Artemis Racing beat Groupama Team France, which was eliminated Friday.

Coupled with two wins in these round robins, Oracle has won 10 straight races against Team New Zealand.

Sir Ben Ainslie and Land Rover BAR sailed smoothly throughout the race but, having fallen behind their opponents at the start, the British team could never quite close the gap as the race progressed.

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The defender takes a one bonus point into the America's Cup final.

Two more penalties for Team New Zealand on the fourth leg for crossing the boundary line proved fatal, and Spithill stormed to a 29-second win.

It's just one of the radical departures from tradition in this America's Cup, which, perhaps fittingly, is being sailed on the northern tip of the Bermuda Triangle.

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 and were way ahead in what would have been the clinching race, but it was abandoned after the time limit expired on a fluky day on San Francisco Bay. The Swedes will now meet Team Japan in the semi-finals.

While Team NZ were underlining their superiority yesterday, Artemis Racing (Sweden) also showed they are a serious chance of advancing to the Cup match, after getting over Oracle for the second time in a week.

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.

Oracle has two races Saturday, the final day of the second round robin, and the Kiwis just one.

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