Team New Zealand's final America's Cup preparations hit a major snag this morning after the team were forced to sit-out practice racing with gear damage.

The Kiwi syndicate suffered significant damage to their starboard rudder in a nosedive incident before racing got under way in Bermuda. The winglets at the bottom of the rudder, a crucial element to foiling stability, appeared to have been ripped off.

It is understood the damage was not a result of the appendage hitting debris on the Great Sound, but rather a case of the crew taking the rudder too far out of range in their push for performance.

Video posted on Youtube later in the day by local cameraman Jason Smith, showed Emirates Team New Zealand foiling stably, before getting the wobbles and lurching into a violent nosedive.


The team quickly returned to the base and replaced the damaged hardware, but by the time they returned to the race course, they had missed their racing slots.

While Team NZ managed to squeeze in a block of training at the end of the day, the missed opportunity to get in some much-needed racing experience was a major blow with the America's Cup Qualifiers set to get under way in 11 days.

Heading into this week's crucial five-day block of practice racing, Team New Zealand sailing coach Ray Davies told the Herald it was important the crew made the most of their opportunities this week.

"We'll definitely try do as much racing as we can, we haven't done much against another yacht," he said.

"We do a lot against the chase boat, but that's not the same thing - it's a bit like dancing with your sister really. We have to put ourselves under the pressure of actually racing against another AC50 in really close quarters."

Unlike the strict rules around daggerboard replacements, there is no limit to the number of sets of rudders teams can build in this America's Cup. The damage will still be a big concern for Team NZ, with many observers believing the sleek rudder design was the key to the team's impressive performance in light air.

Defender Oracle Team USA were in ominous form today, taking out their two races against British team Ben Ainslie Racing and Dean Barker's Team Japan.

It was Team Japan's only loss of the day, after recording convincing wins over the Brits, who appear to be struggling with their straightline speed, and Team France.

Swedish syndicate Artemis, who have set the pace in the earlier round of practice racing, opted to sit out today's action whilst a number of upgrades are completed. It is not known if the team plan to compete in the remaining rounds of practice racing later this week.

Team NZ's distinct bright yellow rudders were part of a new sponsorship agreement announced overnight, just 11 days out from the start of the America's Cup.

Pirelli, one of the world's largest tyre manufacturers, have added their brand to the side of Team New Zealand's 50-ft catamaran.

"For Emirates Team New Zealand it is definitely a plus to have Pirelli on our side just before the racing begins in what will be one of the most competitive America's Cup ever" said Team NZ boss Grant Dalton.

"We value associations with premium international brands like Pirelli where continuous innovation and dedication are a core part of the culture."

Pirelli logos and branding will feature on Emirates Team New Zealand's boat and rudder for the competition starting on the Great Sound on May 27.

Results from day one:
Port Stbd Winner