9 Jun 2017

Team NZ looks to Cup opponents

10:10 pm on 9 June 2017

Team New Zealand will face either its former skipper or its Bermudian neighbour in the America's Cup challenger finals starting on Sunday morning (NZ time).

No caption

Team New Zealand during today's race against BAR. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The team continued the country's 30-year record of making either the Challenger Final, or Cup Match itself, eliminating Sir Ben Ainslie's BAR 5-2.

A storming comeback by Sweden's Artemis secured it three wins in a row today, to lead Dean Barker's Softbank Team Japan 4-3, meaning the pair resume the duel on Saturday morning.

Artemis looks the more intimidating opponent. Fast, and smart, and the only team to have beaten Oracle TeamUSA in the qualifer round, not once, but twice.

The Swede's skipper Nathan Outteridge beat Barker both times in the qualifiers, and in today's clean sweep was less mistake-prone, with Barker penalised twice.

For New Zealand fans, lining up Team New Zealand's long-serving former skipper alongside his next-generation replacement Peter Burling, would be more fascinating.

Burling kept diplomatic about which team it might be in his usually-measured language.

"We're watching a really interesting battle unfold between Artemis and Softbank, and both are sailing incredibly well, and we're under no illusions that we'll be in for a fight in the final," he told the post-race media conference.

Artemis' Nathan Outteridge portrayed his team as one on the up.

"We were quietly confident today, we'd had a good lock at our boat and how we were sailing it a couple of days ago because it was pretty sub-par," he said.

"Having a day off allowed us to make a few tweaks and just understand the equipment a bit better."

Dean Barker was his usual glass-half-full self.

"The boat was going well, but we made two errors in the first two starts, and Artemis was sailing strong races and it was hard to find a way to pass."

"In the third one we had a good race, the top mark cost us (a penalty) but we're right there and we know it's not going to take a lot to go on and win tomorrow," said Barker.

It's unclear from Team New Zealand crew member's own comments, whether their boat is still not 100 percent following its crash and capsize two days ago.

Yesterday when Glenn Ashby was asked whether they had it back to 95 percent after the overnight repair, he insisted it was 99 percent.

In a radio interview the team's boss Grant Dalton rated the boat only 7.5 out of 10 if it had had to sail, the day after the crash - which was abandoned because of high winds.

Today Burling said that while they could have raced the boat yesterday if conditions had allowed, it was a better boat today.

Even then, he suggested they sailed it with kid gloves.

"Definitely we were trying to to take it as easy as we could in the first couple of races, but as the breeze died off a little in that last one we really let loose," he said.

Tomorrow will be either Artemis of Softbank's day, and then the game moves up a level, to find which of them, or Team New Zealand will take on Oracle TeamUSA for the Cup itself.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs

We have regular online commentary of local and international sport.