Yachting: Freshening winds fan drama

Dramatic gains and losses are a feature of the latest racing in the America's Cup World Series in San Francisco, as Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle's Russell Coutts found out to their cost.

Team New Zealand had a much better day on the water yesterday, emphatically winning their match race quarter-final against four-time Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie and JPM-BAR, and were fifth and third in the two fleet races.

But skipper Dean Barker was still far from satisfied, considering they led in both races.

"The day started well," Barker said. "Winning the quarter-final against Ben Ainslie when we have not done much match racing lately was a good result. We are disappointed that we did not finish the job on the second fleet race."

At least they didn't slam into the committee boat, as Coutts' Oracle 5 did at the pre-start of the first fleet race and were forced to retire.

Both races saw numerous lead changes in the strengthening breeze on San Francisco Bay and earlier big winners finished down the field - Oracle 4 (skippered by James Spithill) were seventh, Artemis White sixth and Artemis Red eighth. Team New Zealand finished fifth in the first race, after having had a share of the lead at least twice.

The drama continued in the second race of the day. Barker started well and led for long periods but that lead was never comfortable, particularly on the short-tacking upwind legs, and they finished third.

Coutts had enjoyed a match racing win before having to withdraw from the fleet races. Spithill's crew bounced back to win the second and hold top position on the leaderboard.

Spithill described the Coutts collision: "We didn't see them and we thought we'd be locked out by the French team.

"Right at the last second, they opened the door and we had to hold up or we would have been early. Then with about three to go, we look up and hear this bang. It's a real shame."

- APNZ

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