Ben Ainslie ready for America's Cup playoff semi-finals

Land Rover BAR speaks at a news conference ahead of competing in the America's Cup World Series sailing

Emirates Team New Zealand seized the lead in the America's Cup qualifying round robin with two impressive victories Friday as underdogs Groupama Team France were eliminated from contention.

In a rematch of 2013 America's Cup contestants, Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill forced Team New Zealand's Peter Burling into a penalty at the start and led at every mark to win by 29 seconds.

That leaves SoftBank Team Japan to face Sweden's Artemis Racing in the other semi.

But the helmsman was left to rue a control system failure that affected the team's daggerboard as Britain opted not to complete the race with New Zealand long since finished.

Oracle Team USA, owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, will have a 1-0 lead at the start of the first-to-seven America's Cup match starting June 17.

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However, it was a challenge Groupama Team France could not overcome as their 35th America's Cup challenge ended following a disappointing defeat. Emirates Team New Zealand were up against Land Rover BAR.

Ainslie bounced back and beat Groupama Team France to clinch a spot in the semis. Franck Cammas' team knew they had to win to keep their hopes of qualifying for the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Challenger Playoffs alive.

“We believe with the forecasts over the coming week that it represents our best chance of progressing through, ” said Burling, who took the opportunity to pass on his condolences to the family of New Zealander Mary Elizabeth McKee, who was killed in a boat crash in Hamilton Harbour on Thursday night. Team New Zealand's only race Saturday is against the American-based crew.

The Kiwis produced their light air foils for the first time in racing on Friday and showed a distinct advantage against Great Britain that saw Sir Ben Ainslie wave the white flag on the fifth leg and conceded, such were his comparative struggles in the 7 knots of wind.

The Kiwis seemed to handle the conditions better than most and nearly lapped the hapless British, who started the day as Team New Zealand's closest defender rivals.

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"Like any big decision that gets made in our team, we're a really tight team and everyone's got to buy into it".

SoftBank Team Japan refused to give up the battle, remaining under 20 seconds behind Artemis Racing throughout the entirety of the race.

Also Thursday, Oracle overcame a penalty at the start and passed stablemate SoftBank Team Japan to win by 32 seconds.

BAR were idle yesterday, while Japan lost twice, but only after skipper Dean Barker uncharacteristically lost both starts. "So I think it's worked".

NZME America's Cup expert and former Team NZ weather guru Mark Orams warned against over-thinking that approach.

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