Team New Zealand have bounced back from a disappointing opening day to set up a match-racing semifinal clash with archrival and defending champion James Spithill in the America's Cup World Series at San Francisco.
Still grappling with the nuances of their small catamaran - a scaled-down version of the full America's Cup boat - Dean Barker's crew were non-factors in yesterday's two fleet races and lagged near the back of the field in ninth place overall.
But TNZ showed better form in their first match-race outing, defeating Olympic champion Ben Ainslie and his JP Morgan BAR team in the quarterfinals. The Kiwis seized control of the race at the start when Ainslie took his craft too close to shore and lost the wind to fall behind.
But Barker faces a tough adversary next - Spithall's Oracle outfit progressed to the semis with victory over Luna Rossa-Piranha yesterday and stamped his command by finishing second and first in the fleet contests.
Meanwhile, Kiwi Russell Coutts also guided his Oracle boat into the semifinals with a win over the French Energy Team. He trailled early, but caught a wind shift that carried him clear in the latter stages.
"They're a really good team and we knew we'd have to sail well - certainly start well - and we did" said Coutts. "It was a tough race.
"The conditions are changing so much and obviously we got it wrong at the bottom of the course, when we chose the wrong mark. But we got back in phase and back into the race.
"The breeze is more changeable today, much more variable, and there are more opportunities for gains and losses."
But Coutts faces overnight repairs to his hull after crshing his catamaran into the committe boat at the start of the day's first fleet race - the third in the series. He got squeezed off the start line and couldn't avoid the collision, ruling him out of further racing on Day Two.
Team New Zealand led early and featured more prominently in Race Three, but gradually slipped back through the bunch for fifth place, two spots ahead of a strangely subdued Spithill.
But the Australian sounded a warning to the Kiwis in the next race, rallying from a start-line break and penalty as he swept to victory over the final two legs. Barker again won the start and opened a sizeable lead midway through the race, but couldn't hold off Oracle or the fast-finishing Team Korea.
"There was no panic," said Spithill. "In the first race, we were sailing very, very ordinary and making a lot of mistakes.
"But in the second one, even though we were under a lot of pressure, we were able to stay smooth and get back into it.
"No doubt, the New Zealanders will be worried after all."