(AP) Emirates Team New Zealand lost and then regained the lead on the windward third leg before sailing away from defending champion Oracle Team USA to win the opening race of the 34th America's Cup by 36 seconds Saturday on San Francisco Bay.
The Kiwis need eight more wins to claim the oldest trophy in international sports for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, which held the Auld Mug from 1995-2003.
Oracle Team USA, owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, must win 11 races to retain the Cup. It was docked two points in the biggest cheating scandal in the 162-year history of the America's Cup.
Race 2 was scheduled to begin shortly after the finish of the opener.
Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker had a slight lead crossing the starting line just inside of the Golden Gate Bridge and beat rival Jimmy Spithill to the first mark.
Barker kept the lead sailing downwind and was four seconds ahead at the third mark, but slowed down a bit shortly after turning onto the windward leg. The first time the 72-foot catamarans crossed, Spithill had sailed Oracle into the lead.
But Spithill let the Kiwis get the starboard tack advantage and they protected the favored left side of the course sailing past the cityfront. In the second lead change on the leg, Barker sailed ahead and built a safe advantage.
Oracle appeared to have some kind of damage on its 131-foot wing sail after the first race. The wing sail looks and performs like an airplane wing, including a front element and flaps.
On Tuesday, Oracle Team USA was docked two points and Dirk de Ridder, who had trimmed the wing sail, was booted from the regatta, along with two shore crew members. Additionally, grinder Matt Mitchell was barred from the first four races and the syndicate was fined $250,000.
The harshest penalties in America's Cup history were imposed for illegally modifying 45-foot catamarans in warmup regattas called the America's Cup World Series last year and earlier this year. The punishment meant that Oracle started the regatta at minus-2.