Kiwis back to challenge United States in America's Cup

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Spithills opponent starting Saturday on Bermudas Great Sound is Emirates Team New Zealand, which is looking to atone for its soul-crushing collapse in 2013.

New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling, 26, won both races against defending US champion Jimmy Spithill in an upset as the Kiwi team made a strong start in the first day of the first to seven competition.

One of the more intriguing matchups, besides how the teams' 50-foot, foiling catamarans compare and how well the crews sail them, is how Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling, a 26-year-old America's Cup rookie, holds up against Spithill.

So far, the Kiwis and their cycling grinding system have proven too fast for Oracle in light, shifty wind.

They won by 30 seconds, still showing their dominance in light wind.

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The final is a race to seven points, with New Zealand now 1-0 ahead of two races on Sunday.

Before sitting out the challenger semi-finals and final, they topped the round-robin qualifying standings to earn a valuable bonus point that they take into the America's Cup proper.

The two-time defending America's Cup champions are foundering badly against hotshot young helmsman Peter Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand, who are threatening to sail - and cycle - away with the oldest trophy in worldwide sports.

Race 2 is to follow.

The New Zealand team are a fast, well-oiled machine with their aerodynamic pod of four "cyclor" sailors, who supply the energy needed to power the boat's massive wing sail by pedalling on bikes.

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"I think the question is, imagine if these guys lost from here", Spithill said, glancing at then-Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker. "They're going to be there when we need them".

"Look, I really try and portray the team", Spithill said Friday after he and Burling posed with the America's Cup.

But Burling is taking nothing for granted after the U.S. fought back from 8-1 down to take the famous old trophy when the boats last clashed in San Francisco four years ago. "We're obviously disappointed with what was a tough day, but the deficit is only one point so we we're not panicking", said a defiant Spithill.

Team NZ were 42 seconds up at the fourth mark and Spithill tried to make up ground by initiating a tacking duel, but Burling wouldn't bite and continued to sail smoothly to the finish, eventually finishing 49 seconds clear.

Race Two: Emirates Team New Zealand beat ORACLE TEAM USA by 1 minute and 28 seconds.

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