HAMILTON, Bermuda (Reuters) - Britain will not be bringing the America's Cup home this year but they narrowly beat New Zealand to clinch the Red Bull Youth America's Cup in Bermuda on Wednesday.
Victory for the Land Rover BAR Academy crew over NZL Sailing Team in the eight-boat final was some consolation for the British after the senior team led by Ben Ainslie were dumped out of the America's Cup by New Zealand in the semi-final.
The youth cup was fought out on the Great Sound where Emirates Team New Zealand and holders Oracle Team USA are due to resume battle on Saturday for the America's Cup, the oldest trophy in international sport and sailing's most coveted prize.
Emirates Team New Zealand lead the first-to-seven America's Cup Match 3-0, showing greater speed and manoeuvrability in their foiling 50-foot (15 metre) catamaran than their U.S. opponents.
The New Zealand challenger for the 35th America's Cup is helmed by 26-year-old Peter Burling, who won the inaugural youth cup in San Francisco in 2013, along with crew mates Blair Tuke, Andy Maloney and Guy Endean.
In the finale of the 2017 youth event, the New Zealand crew needed to finish three places above the British in the last race to retain the trophy.
But the British crew were able to sail through the fleet into second position as the race neared its end when other crews got involved in clashes and incurred penalties, allowing skipper Rob Bunce's team to reach 50 points and beat New Zealand by two points.
"We knew to finish first overall we could only have one boat in between us and New Zealand and most of the way round there were two or three boats in between," Bunce said after the race.
NZL Sailing Team skipper Logan Dunning Beck said all they could do was cross their fingers and hope the British team failed to cut through the other boats.
"We were watching all the way to the end, hoping and praying, but it just came down to the wire and the Brits did a fantastic job to pass a couple of boats," he added.
Ainslie, the most successful Olympic sailor and team principal and skipper of Land Rover BAR, said it had been tense.
"All their hard work, commitment and dedication over the past 18 months has really come together on the water here in Bermuda," Ainslie said.
The 40-year-old has made it his mission to bring the "Auld Mug", as the America's Cup is known, back to Britain, where it was first claimed by the schooner 'America' in 1851.
Editing by Peter Rutherford