Ainslie up for Emirates Team New Zealand battle

Sir Ben Ainslie said he was up for the battle after Emirates Team New Zealand chose Land Rover BAR as their America's Cup challenger play-off semi-final opponents.

Saturday, 3rd June 2017, 10:40 pm
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 8:55 pm
Land Rover BAR edge ahead of Softbank Team Japan during their first round-robin race in Bermuda today. Picture: Gilles Martin-Raget

The two teams will go head-to-head for a place in the finals after the Kiwis hand-picked the Portsmouth-based side for the next stage of the competition.

They had that honour after finishing as the highest-ranked team from this week’s intense round-robin 2 qualifiers – behind Oracle Team USA, who automatically go forward to compete in the 35th running of the America’s Cup.

The semi-finals begin tomorrow in Bermuda - 24 hours after BAR finished third in qualifying.

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The first team to five points will progress, before facing off against the winner of the other semi-final - Artemis Racing and Softbank Team Japan - for the right to compete against USA in the grand finale.

BAR go into tomorrow’s battle with New Zealand with a win and a defeat from their latest outings.

They gained revenge on Japan, who beat them on the opening day in Bermuda, by securing victory over Dean Barker’s team this afternoon.

However, they were unable to repeat the feat against the Americans, who recorded a 36-second win over Ainslie & Co in today’s third race.

It was a much-improved day at the office for BAR, though, following a difficult week.

And Ainslie is looking forward to going head-to-head with the Emirates outfit, whose only race today saw them lose to Jimmy Spithill’s Team USA side.

They remained second in the standings, however, with a record of eight wins from their 10 races.

‘It’s going to be a close race,’ said Ainslie, whose side recorded four wins over the week.

‘To win the America’s Cup you’re going to have to beat all the teams and Emirates Team New Zeland have certainly proved throughout this qualifying round to be sailing really well, very fast over all the range of conditions.

‘For us it will be a real battle, but we’re up for it, looking forward to it.

The challenger play-off semi-finals begin tomorrow, and continue on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, if required.