Ainslie's America's Cup challenge back on course

Ben Ainslie's INEOS Team UK (L) competed against Emirates Team New Zealand on Friday

British sailing legend Ben Ainslie steered his America's Cup challenge back on course Friday after trading barbs with defending champion Team New Zealand both on and off the water.

Ainslie's INEOS Team UK yacht managed to finish both of its heats at a warm-up event in Auckland after a disastrous start on Thursday when it broke down and was left dead in the water.

Ainslie's boat was still beaten convincingly by Team NZ in both heats but the four-time Olympic champion was relieved to simply compete after the previous day's embarrassing flop.

"It was much better than yesterday," the four-time Olympic champion said, admitting the boat remained "a click off the pace from the Kiwis".

"We were able to get around the course, everything was working as it should and the guys did a really good job."

American Magic and Italy's Luna Rossa also faced off in two races, claiming a win each.

But the fiercest clash of the day was off the water between INEOS Team UK and Team NZ, who flatly rejected Ainslie's accusation that a part they supplied had caused his yacht's technical issues.

Ainslie said the problem was the hi-tech foiling arms that lift the 23-metre (75-foot) yachts above the surface of the water.

Team NZ has supplied the parts to all of the America's Cup racers but the Briton said the hosts had been reluctant to share details that could resolve the problem.

"We've probably lost weeks of this campaign on the water dealing with the foil cant system," he said.

Team NZ described the remarks as "completely incorrect and inaccurate", saying all four syndicates involved in the regatta were using the same component and had to take responsiblity for its maintenance and operation.

"In Team NZ's experience if all maintenance and start up procedures are followed correctly, the system operates as designed," it said in a statement.

"As far as the defender (Team NZ) is aware INEOS Team UK's foil cant system is fully operational."

Four yachts are involved in the Auckland event, hosts Team NZ, INEOS Team UK, American Magic and Italy's Luna Rossa.

INEOS Team UK is believed to have the largest budget, reportedly bankrolled by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe to the tune of 110 million pounds (US$150 million).

The warm-up races, which run until Sunday, have no bearing on the America's Cup proper.

Racing gets serious in January, when the three challengers compete for the Prada Cup, with the winner earning the right to take on Team NZ for the America's Cup in March.

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