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Near-perfect Kiwis take control of America's Cup qualifiers


Earlier on Saturday, the US crew beat Emirates Team New Zealand in the Louis Vuitton America's Cup qualifier event, guaranteeing themselves a bonus point when the racing for the cup begins on June 17 in Bermuda.

Team New Zealand has chosen to face BAR Great Britain in the semi finals of the America's Cup challenger series after a disappointing day on the water.

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

Sweden have defeated America's Cup holders US and close allies Team Japan twice each - including once each yesterday - showing they are more than capable of toppling the best.

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. If they meet Team New Zealand there, they will be 1-0 up in the first-to-seven contest.

BAR beat Team Japan by 13 seconds while the Swedish syndicate crushed the already-eliminated Team France by more than two minutes.

After Saturday, Oracle will train on its own while the challengers sail their semifinals and finals.

Penguins chase Pekka Rinne with third period outburst
Ten seconds into the third period, Guentzel - who delivered the game-winner in Game 1 - notched his second of the game. On Tuesday, Guentzel was a feel-good story after scoring the winning goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The race on Saturday local time (shortly after 5am Sunday in NZ) was full of drama from the start as Team New Zealand tried to out-muscle Oracle.

Despite the setback, SoftBank Team Japan recovered brilliantly to close the gap to their rivals ahead of the next gate as the two teams crossed paths before the turn.

Trying to improve: But there was even better to come as New Zealand became the first team to achieve an official "perfect" race, foiling around the entire course without touching their hulls down to beat France by four minutes and six seconds.

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. Oracle struggled for speed in the early races and replaced tactician John Kostecki with British sailing star Ben Ainslie.

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. In 2013, Oracle started the America's Cup showdown with the Kiwis down two points after being penalized in the biggest cheating scandal in the regatta's 166-year history. Oracle then mounted one of the greatest comebacks in sports, winning eight straight races to retain the Auld Mug.

In the second race of the day, Ben Ainslie's Land Rover BAR won a thrilling duel against SoftBank Team Japan, with the British crew getting the better of Dean Barker at the start.

Oracle has a second race Saturday, against Land Rover BAR.

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