Master sailor Sir Ben Ainslie is confident his team can repair their boat and make the start-line for tomorrow's racing against Team NZ at the America's Cup challenger semifinals off Bermuda.

The British outfit was forced to withdraw from their opening playoff race against the Kiwis today, after suffering damage to their wing in stronger prevailing winds on the Great Sound and, could not repair the fault in time for their second scheduled encounter.

The problem was initially diagnosed as a broken camber arm. Since each team carries two wings, it would be a relatively straightforward process replacing the broken one, if repairs could not be carried out in time.

"It was a tough day for the team to lose two races like that so early on in the piece, considering what's at stake here," said Ainslie afterwards. "But I've got a lot of belief in the team that this is something they can come back from.

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"We've had tough times in the past and been able to turn those around. They guys are in the shed now, analyzing exactly what went wrong, fixing the problem and we'll back out tomorrow, pushing hard."

The incident occurred just after BAR rounded the bottom mark six seconds behind Team NZ and were setting themselves up to split left upwind.

Land Rover BAR lift their boat onto the dock to begin repairs, after withdrawing from today's racing at the America's Cup challenger playoffs. Photo/America's Cup
Land Rover BAR lift their boat onto the dock to begin repairs, after withdrawing from today's racing at the America's Cup challenger playoffs. Photo/America's Cup

"It was just at the exit of that round-up that we heard a crunching sound from the wing," reflected Ainslie. "In that situation, it's all too easy to ignore it and keep racing, because we want to be out there and pushing hard.

"But it was the right thing to stop the boat and analyse it, and thank God we did or we'd still be out there, picking bits of carbon out of the bay, if we had tried to push on.

"It was something to do with our wing control system and a breakdown that was pretty catastrophic, but we're confident we can fix that for tomorrow and be out there with the same wing and the same performance."

BAR had about 40 minutes to fix the breakage, if they hoped to start the second race, but that was never really realistic.

"We tried very hard," said Ainslie. "The issue was we couldn't sail the boat, and had to use our chase boats to push backwards and sideways to get ourselves back to the dock, which took a good 20-30 minutes.

"By the time we got to the dock, it was clear that it was infeasible to get the boat back out for the second race.

"It was a difficult situation for the team, but I'm really proud of how everyone dealt with the situation and we'll come back stronger tomorrow."

Emirates Team NZ complete their solo run in the second race against Land Rover BAR in the America's Cup challenger playoffs in Bermuda. Photo/America's Cup
Emirates Team NZ complete their solo run in the second race against Land Rover BAR in the America's Cup challenger playoffs in Bermuda. Photo/America's Cup

Today's winds were in the range of 10-20 knots, stronger than in most previous days of racing during the challenger qualifying series, but still well short of the 25-knot upper threshold.

Forecasts for tomorrow suggest the winds will be even stronger, putting even more stress on the ACC boats.

Ainslie moved to dismiss any nagging doubts about the ability of his boat to withstand heavier conditions, which were expected to make him more competitive against Emirates Team New Zealand.

"These boats are incredibly high-performance, technical racing machines and we're pushing them to the limit," he said. "But this was a breakdown we haven't experienced before and we've sailed the boat in a lot stronger conditions than we had today.

"We're obviously analysing exactly what went wrong and ensuring it doesn't happen again. I have every confidence in our equipment to be able to come out racing tomorrow, to get around the course and be fast."

Meanwhile, the other semifinal is evenly poised, with former Team NZ skipper Dean Barker steering Team Japan home against Artemis Racing in the opening race, but the Swedes grabbing the second to draw level.

Today's results
SF 1 R1: Emirates Team New Zealand beat Land Rover BAR by withdrawal (NZ 1-0)
SF 2 R1: SoftBank Team Japan beat Artemis Racing by 23 secs (Japan 1-0)
SF 1 R2: Emirates Team New Zealand beat Land Rover BAR by walkover (NZ 2-0)
SF 2 R2: Artemis Racing beat SoftBank Team Japan by 29 secs (Tied 1-1)

Tomorrow's schedule
SF 2 R3: SoftBank Team Japan v Artemis Racing, 5.08am (NZT)
SF 1 R3: Land Rover BAR v Emirates Team New Zealand, 5.36am
SF 2 R4: Artemis Racing v SoftBank Team Japan, 6am
SF 1 R4: Emirates Team New Zealand v Land Rover BAR, 6.30am