Yachting: Despite scare Kiwis nab 1st point from damaged Luna Rossa

Team New Zealand survived a scare to win the first race of the America's Cup challenger finals in a walkover Saturday as boat damage forced Luna Rossa to withdraw.

Italy's Luna Rossa pulled out with problems to their AC72 catamaran's starboard daggerboard suffered in the pre-start.

The team made a temporary fix and took the start, but they were forced out after the first mark rounding.

Emirates Team New Zealand completed the 9.95-nautical-mile course on San Francisco Bay in 31 minutes, 3 seconds, but not before a frightening incident rounding the windward mark to starboard.

The twin hulls of Aotearoa buried up to the main crossbeam and the craft's speed dropped from 40.7 knots to 13 knots.

Crewmembers Rob Waddell and Chris Ward were flung overboard, but were recovered by the team's chase boat and apparently escaped serious injury.

The incident was a grim remember of just how temperamental the massive catamarans can be, and of the May training accident in which Artemis Racing crew member Andrew Simpson was killed.

Simpson died when the catamaran capsized and he was thrown into the water.

Luna Rossa returned to base, and the day's second scheduled race was postponed until Sunday.

The best-of-13 Louis Vuitton Cup finals will determine a challenger to take on defenders Oracle Team USA in the America's Cup finals in September.

Emirates Team New Zealand dominated Luna Rossa in the round-robin first round, with Swedish team Artemis sitting out as they prepared a second boat to replace the one destroyed in the deadly training accident in May.

In the semi-finals of the challenger series, Luna Rossa swept Artemis in four races and were hoping they had made enough strides to challenge the Kiwis in the decisive phase.