Ben Ainslie's America's Cup challenge hangs in balance

Mechanical failure in first race against New Zealand leaves British team facing uphill battle in Bermuda

Ban Ainslie, Land Tover BAR, America's Cup
Ben Ainslie's Land Rover BAR team in action at the America's Cup in Bermuda
(Image credit: Mark Lloyd/AFP/Getty)

Ben Ainslie's America's Cup campaign is looking increasingly unsure after the Land Rover BAR team were hit by a mechanical failure in the challenger play-off series against New Zealand.

The setback in the opening moments of the first race forced them to retire. The damage was so bad they had to forfeit the second race as well.

It leaves New Zealand 2-0 up in the first-to-five series, with two more races scheduled for Tuesday.

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New Zealand had chosen to race against Ainslie's team on the basis that low winds on Sunday would be to their benefit, as the BAR team have struggled in Bermuda. In the event, winds were so low that there was no racing.

But Ainslie's good fortune did not last long. There were problems straight away on Monday.

"The noise seems to have been the carbon fibre camber arm breaking and, despite initially considering racing on, Ainslie made the sensible decision to retire, which could have saved his boat from a serious accident," says The Times.

"The camber arm controls movement and bend in the 23.5 metre high wing that powers the boat. If they had continued, it was likely that the wing would have collapsed on top of the boat when confronted with a cross wind."

It leaves Ainslie cursing his luck, says the Daily Telegraph.

"Certainly it seems that every time the British team takes one step forward, it takes a couple backwards. Many of those setbacks have been self-inflicted of course, but this one felt particularly cruel.

"It will be a long way back from 2-0 down to a team of the calibre of New Zealand. A long way but not impossible. The one encouraging aspect, from a British perspective, was the speed and boat-handling of the team in the brief bit of racing we did see."

Strong winds are expected for the final two days of racing as Land Rover BAR try to come from behind against Emirates Team New Zealand.

The winners will face off against Sweden or Japan, who are contesting the other semi-final, for the right to challenge Oracle Team USA for the America's Cup itself.

Ben Ainslie wins place in America's Cup play-offs – but it's no breeze

2 June

Ben Ainslie's British sailing team have earned a place in the America's Cup challenger play-offs in Bermuda but there are still worries about their performance following the first round of racing.

After the first week of competition, which will see the elimination of one team, Land Rover BAR are secure in third place out of six teams, but they're a long way behind the US, who are the defending champions, and New Zealand.

Thursday was a hugely mixed day for Land Rover BAR, who were badly beaten by Emirates Team New Zealand in the first race of the day before securing another week in the competition with a tight win over Groupama Team France.

There will be plenty for Ainslie and his team to think about on their rest day, says The Times.

"The size of the task they will face [in the play-offs] was brutally underlined as Ainslie voluntarily retired from a race for the first time in his career as they were crushed by Emirates Team New Zealand on another day of light winds on the Great Sound in Bermuda.

"While Ainslie's team have shown that they can perform well in winds of about 12 knots, when the breeze drops down towards the permitted minimum of six knots, they are struggling."

Their chances of earning the right to challenge Oracle Team USA in the America's Cup finale are "likely to depend on whether they can sort out their issues at either end of the wind range", agrees the Daily Telegraph.

"On Monday, in heavier winds approaching 20 knots, they struggled against France. On Tuesday, in medium winds, they were faultless against Sweden. On Thursday, in light fluky winds of 7-11 knots – just above the required strength to race – they really struggled again."

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