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America's Cup - The bell tolls for Ainslie, it's a final for Burling

by America's Cup on 9 Jun 2017
Land Rover BAR - America's Cup 2017 ACEA - Photo Gilles Martin-Raget
Sir Ben Ainslie and Land Rover BAR’s quest to win the 35th America’s Cup came to an early end on Thursday in Bermuda when Peter Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand sealed the British team’s fate by reaching the magic five wins needed against Land Rover BAR to progress to the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs Finals.

In the other Semi-Finals, Nathan Outteridge and Artemis Racing mounted an almighty comeback against their Japanese rivals, Dean Barker’s SoftBank Team Japan, winning three races on the trot to take the score in their Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs Semi-Finals to four - three, meaning they will race again on Friday to decide the second Finalist.

For Ainslie and his team, they were ultimately beaten by Emirates Team New Zealand twice on Thursday, sealing their fate five - two and leaving them heading back to Britain without the America’s Cup they were so determined to take home.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the team. It has been an amazing journey for us,” said Sir Ben Ainslie following Land Rover BAR’s elimination from the America’s Cup.

“Three and a half years ago three of us were sitting around a table in London with nothing more than a few ideas and some support from a few early investors.

“What we’ve achieved now is phenomenal really. We may have bowed out of the competition and ultimately failed to bring the America’s Cup home but we knew it was going to be incredibly tough.

“We gave it our best attempt and certainly, where this team has come from, particularly in the previous few months, is a huge credit to everyone in the team.”

Turning his attention to the future, Sir Ben Ainslie revealed that Land Rover BAR will be back for the next instalment of the America’s Cup after agreeing deals with their major partners.

“To have that commitment already in place is a massive bonus for everyone and to be able to start our preparations for the next campaign already means we will come back that much stronger.

“I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported us back home in the United Kingdom and here in Bermuda. We are a very proud British team and we will be back in the America’s Cup.”

For Burling and his crew, the incredible efforts the team made from Tuesday to Thursday to repair the boat that was so badly damaged in Tuesday’s pitchpole were repaid handsomely, putting themselves into the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs Finals as the first team to reach that stage.

“It was an incredible effort from our entire team to get back out on the water today,” said Burling on his team’s incredible recovery from Tuesday’s spectacular capsize.

“To be able to reward everyone by confirming our progression (into the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs Finals) today, is fantastic and is exactly what we set out to achieve.

“Our aim when we arrived was to win the America’s Cup and we have definitely taken a big step on the road to winning the America’s Cup.”

Turning his attention to the potential opponent in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs Final, Burling admitted he does not have a preference between Artemis Racing or SoftBank Team Japan.

“We don’t mind who we might face in the Finals (Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs Finals),” he added. “It will be a fascinating day tomorrow between Artemis Racing and SoftBank Team Japan and we are looking forward to seeing what the day will bring.”

Heading into the first race of the afternoon (Semi-Finals one, Race five) trailing three - one, Sir Ben Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR knew they had to win at least two of today’s scheduled three races over Peter Burling’s Emirates Team New Zealand to keep their Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs Final hopes alive.

Ainslie and his team’s chances looked good in the early stages of their first encounter, as their rivals had a poor pre-start, allowing Land Rover BAR to gain an early 26 second advantage by the first mark.

That lead remained steady through the first four legs until a crucial cross on leg 5/7 between the two teams saw the tides turn, as Peter Burling’s team seized the advantage.

There were questions over whether the Emirates Team New Zealand boat would be ready, heading into the race following Tuesday’s spectacular incident, but if there were any lasting issues they certainly were not evident as Burling’s team sailed perfectly, registering over 99% of the race up on their foils according to the BMW Flytime measurement.

Having taken the lead, the Kiwis would not relinquish it in the closing stages, flying through the final gate and crossing the line 31 seconds ahead of Land Rover BAR to take a four - one lead in their Semi-Finals, immediately rampling up the pressure on Sir Ben Ainslie’s team ahead of their second race of the day.

Much like Sir Ben Ainslie, Nathan Outteridge knew that a repeat of Tuesday’s two defeats to SoftBank Team Japan would see them eliminated from the 35th America’s Cup.

However, it was SoftBank Team Japan’s Dean Barker who, despite leading their Semi-Final three - one, showed early nerves in the two teams’ first encounter of the day as the Japanese team were handed a penalty for crossing the start line a fraction too soon.

That mistake handed Nathan Outteridge the advantage and it was one he took full advantage of, taking the lead and staying ahead throughout the entire race.

SoftBank Team Japan remained in hot pursuit of their rivals but there was ultimately nothing they could do. A faultless performance from Outteridge and Artemis Racing saw the Swedish team seal a 39 second victory and reduce the deficit in their fight to stay in the 35th America’s Cup to three - two.

With the hopes of Great Britain resting on his shoulders, Sir Ben Ainslie was at his combative best in the third race of the day, as Land Rover BAR kept their hopes alive with a must-win 20 second victory over Peter Burling’s Emirates Team New Zealand.

Knowing only a win would keep them in the 35th America’s Cup, at least for one more race, Land Rover BAR showed their intentions right from the start, racing off the start line ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand and seizing the early advantage.

In contrast to their first encounter of the day, Ainslie and his team did not crack under the pressure from Burling, keeping the Kiwis at bay throughout the race.

Despite their four - one advantage it was Emirates Team New Zealand who looked more like the team under pressure. Small mistakes crept into their race and poor manoeuvres, in particular on the third leg, hampered their chances of another win.

In contrast, the British team remained composed, sailing faultlessly just when it mattered most, finally crossing the line 20 seconds ahead of their rivals, pushing the scoreboard to four - two.

Turning attentions back to the other semi-final duel, and what a difference a day makes, particularly when you’re Nathan Outteridge and Artemis Racing, who levelled the scores against SoftBank Team Japan with a second successive victory.

Just as they had in the two teams’ opening encounter on Thursday, Artemis Racing timed their approach to the start line to perfection and took an early lead.

In stark contrast to Tuesday’s poor performance, Nathan Outteridge and his team looked assured throughout the race, maintaining a slender lead over the pursuing SoftBank Team Japan.

While Dean Barker sailed an almost faultless race, Artemis Racing did not make the mistake the Japanese team would have been hoping for and Nathan Outteridge steered his team home with a 28 second victory, levelling the scores at three - three ahead of the teams’ third and final battle of the day.

All eyes turned to Land Rover BAR and Emirates Team New Zealand, and the crunch match between the two Semi-Finalists.

Having given themselves a glimmer of hope of progressing with their earlier victory, Sir Ben Ainslie and Land Rover BAR’s dream of reaching the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs Finals was finally ended with defeat to Peter Burling’s Emirates Team New Zealand in the fifth race of the day.

From the offset, the Kiwis were in a less than charitable mood, in comparison to the second race of the day, and they burst off of the start line, giving themselves an immediate advantage in their efforts to knock out the Brits.

The Emirates Team New Zealand advantage was extended to 13 seconds by the second gate, and extended further to 35 seconds by the fifth gate as the British challenge began to diminish.

Sir Ben Ainslie refused to concede defeat, but despite Land Rover BAR’s best efforts, elimination looked inevitable as Peter Burling’s team maintained a healthy lead.

Finally, with the British team looking helplessly up the racecourse, Emirates Team New Zealand crossed the finish line, sealing their progression into the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs Finals and confirming Land Rover BAR’s elimination from the 35th America’s Cup.

While one battle had been settled, the other remained finely poised as Artemis Racing and SoftBank Team Japan faced off for a final time on the day.

Having won both of the day’s previous battles, Nathan Outteridge made it a hat-trick of victories to turn a three - one deficit at the start of Thursday into a four - three lead at the end of the day.

Dean Barker narrowly won the pre-start battle, SoftBank Team Japan stealing an early march over Nathan Outteridge’s Artemis Racing. However, the Swedish team battled back over the first four legs of the race and closed the gap completely heading into the pivotal and dramatic Gate 5 turn.

The two teams came into the mark and, in a dramatic flashpoint moment, almost touched, the result of which was a penalty handed to SoftBank Team Japan.

It was a decision from the America’s Cup Race Management umpires that was to prove critical as Artemis Racing seized the advantage to race clear and cross the finish line well ahead of their rivals, sealing a third consecutive victory on the day.

That result leaves Nathan Outteridge in the driving seat heading into a mouth-watering day of racing on Friday, with Artemis Racing needing one more win and SoftBank Team Japan needing two more wins to confirm their place in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs Finals, where either team will face Peter Burling’s Emirates Team New Zealand.

“It was an awesome day for us and I’m incredibly proud of everybody involved in our team,” said Artemis Racing helmsman Nathan Outteridge.

“We had an incredibly tough day on Tuesday and so as a team we looked back at what we had to do better. I think everyone saw not only an improved boat but a much needed improved performance from us as sailors.

“We were not particularly nervous heading into today. We know it could have been our potential exit today but we were all quietly confident.

“We could have lost confidence in the boat after Tuesday but everyone dug in deep and I’m just proud of what we achieved today.

“We went back to basics and it just showed how easy it can be to win races again. The aim is to do the same tomorrow and take another step towards winning the America’s Cup.”

In reply, SoftBank Team Japan Dean Barker is refusing to concede defeat.

“It was obviously a very disappointing day but everyone is remaining positive,” said a determined Barker.

“It's never ideal to lose three races in a day and it is frustrating for everyone but we take a lot of heart from today into tomorrow.

“Small errors cost us today but we know we are still right in this contest and it will not take a lot to go out and win tomorrow.

“We are two very even teams and although we had a disappointing day, we will take all of our positive energy into tomorrow.”

Race results:

• Semi-Final 1 Race 5: Emirates Team New Zealand beat Land Rover BAR by 31 seconds
• Semi-Final 1 Race 5: Artemis Racing beat SoftBank Team Japan by 39 seconds
• Semi-Final 1 Race 6: Land Rover BAR beat Emirates Team New Zealand 20 seconds
• Semi-Final 1 Race 6: Artemis Racing beat SoftBank Team Japan by 28 seconds
• Semi-Final 1 Race 7: Emirates Team New Zealand beat Land Rover BAR by 46 seconds
• Semi-Final 1 Race 7:Artemis Racing beat SoftBank Team Japan by 1 minute and 46 seconds
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