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Emirates Team NZ takes lead in America's Cup challenger series

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Emirates Team New Zealand benefited from a mechanical failure to Italy's Luna Rossa.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The final of the America's Cup challenger series has had more failing than foiling.

Emirates Team New Zealand sailed away with another win because of a mechanical failure to Italy's Luna Rossa, taking a 2-1 lead in the Louis Vuitton Cup finals Monday.

Skipper Dean Barker moved his high-performance catamaran underneath at the start and made a slick move inside Luna Rossa on the first turn to go ahead. The Italians had their best start and stayed close until the control arm of their wing broke, forcing another withdrawal in a series beset by big breezes and breakdowns.

"It'd be nice if we can get one race where both boats race all the way till the end," Barker said.

For the third straight day, officials called off the second race due to strong wind and bailed out a broken boat. The next two races will be held Wednesday.

The winner of the best-of-13 finals will face defending champion Oracle Team USA in the 34th America's Cup starting Sept. 7.

This summer has been full of setbacks on San Francisco Bay, starting when British sailor Andrew "Bart" Simpson died in the capsize of Swedish Team Artemis Racing's first boat during a training run May 9.

Oracle has been entrenched in a cheating scandal for illegal modifications to its prototype boats used last year and the 72-foot catamarans - so expensive and dangerous that only four teams entered the competition - are breaking down more than a used car.

All three wins have come by withdrawals.

Emirates tore the trampoline tarp in the center of its catamaran during a nosedive that sent two men tumbling overboard in the opener. The Kiwis still won because the Italians struggled to fix a broken lifting system around their right daggerboard.

Emirates led Luna Rossa by 400 meters late in Sunday's race when the electronics system that controls the hydraulics shut down. Workers had to come aboard to fix the problem, handing Luna Rossa - which had a few cracks in its wing - the tying win.

Monday's first race started an hour earlier before the typical afternoon breezes on San Francisco Bay whip up. Even still, another uncontested win occurred.

The Kiwis made a beautiful foiling gybe - when a boat changes direction while sailing downwind and stays on its foils - at more than 30 knots (34.5 mph) to send them through the leeward gate about 21 seconds in front. As both boats turned right toward Alcatraz Island, the Italians pulled up with problems controlling their wing.

Luna Rossa is still winless against favored Emirates when the Kiwis' catamaran is functional.

The Kiwis went 5-0 against the Italians in the round-robins, including the opener that Luna Rossa boycotted because of a rules spat. The Kiwis twice beat the Italians by more than 5 minutes, and the closest margin was 2:19.

The current course is three legs shorter than the one used during the round-robins. Two five-leg races are planned each day - although that has yet to take place - to determine who will face Oracle, which is trying to win its own fight off the water.

Oracle has been branded as cheaters by the two remaining challengers after it was found that two of its three prototype boats used in warm-up regattas last year and early this year were illegally modified. An international jury is investigating and could sanction Oracle with a fine, forfeiture of races in the America's Cup match or disqualification.

The jury issued notices Monday morning that it is moving forward with the investigation but said it would not announce the date of the hearing. America's Cup CEO Stephen Barclay said he expects a decision by the end of the month.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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