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Advantage Emirates after dramatic finale

Mind your step: Nathan Outteridge got it slightly wrong on one of his many crosses today and ended up in the Great Sound during race three of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Play-off Finals against Emirates Team New Zealand (Photograph by Ricardo Pinto/&Copy; ACEA 2017)

Artemis Racing’s man overboard drill was put to the test as team skipper Nathan Outteridge lost his footing and fell into the water on day one of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Play-off Finals on the Great Sound today.

Emirates Team New Zealand was the top boat on the day, twice coming from behind to carve out a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-nine series.

However, the focal point of discussion back on the dock after an exciting day of close racing in trying, flat water conditions was Outteridge’s dramatic and unscheduled swim.

The mishap occurred during the day’s third and final match with Artemis barely ahead of the charging Kiwis by four metres as the teams closed in on the weather mark.

The Swedes came off their foils in a poorly executed port tack and while crossing to the leeward hull, Outteridge slipped and fell overboard, leaving his team-mates to fend for themselves the rest of the way.

“It was disappointing falling overboard,” Outteridge said. “I tried to grab some net or a bit of the boat and just missed everything and ended up in the water.

“Once I resurfaced, I looked up made a little prayer and wished the guys the best of luck.”

Peter Burling, the Team New Zealand helmsman, added: “I didn’t really realise he had gone overboard.

“We came out of that first tack knowing we were going to have a piece of the top mark

“We had our heads down making sure we were getting everything out of our boat we could to make sure we got past and then realised they had slowed down, and didn’t really realise why until we sailed past them about a minute or so later.”

Very little separated two evenly matched teams who were locked at 1-1 in the overall series when disaster struck Artemis and virtually handed the Kiwis the match.

“Up until I went overboard, the boat was performing very nicely and manoeuvring very well, and so we are really happy with the improvement we’ve made to the boat,” Outteridge said.

Understandably, Burling was delighted to see his team seize early control of the series.

“Our first sail we felt the boat was going really fast today,” he said.

“We definitely didn’t feel like we had it set up quite 100 per cent because the breeze was going up and down, we were kind of chasing it all day.

“But really happy to walk away with two wins.”

The eventual winner of the Challenger Finals will face two-times defending champions Oracle Team USA in the 35th America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton.

Racing continues tomorrow.