Yachting: Kiwis dominate opening day of America's Cup

Emirates New Zealand dominated the opening races of the America's Cup on Saturday, stepping closer to claiming the yachting world's coveted prize.

New Zealand beat defending champion Oracle Team USA off the starting line and across the finish twice in a row, besting the defending champion when it came to speed and maneuvering.

"That was a fantastic day," New Zealand team tactician Ray Davies said after the second race.

Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill, understandably, had a different viewpoint, saying "it was obviously not the result we wanted."

New Zealand seized the first race of the Cup, crossing the starting line with precision and going on to out-maneuver Oracle, proving to be slightly faster on the water.

Both skippers appeared grim-faced early in the opening race after New Zealand glided across the start slightly ahead of Oracle.

Oracle grabbed the lead with a bold cross-over in the third leg, until New Zealand took control with a tack of its own.

New Zealand crossed the finish 36 seconds ahead of Oracle.

Bold cross-overs by both teams resulted in the AC-72 catamarans seeming close to collision, but course umpires called no penalties.

"It was a great little battle," Spithill said as he prepared for the second race of the day.

The second race was seemingly decided at the starting line, when Oracle got stalled behind New Zealand in what Spithill thought should have been a penalty.

Umpires did not agree. New Zealand bolted across the line to claim a lead that they never surrendered.

"It really was a touch and go moment in the race," Davies said. "It was pretty much the race right there in that moment."

New Zealand's lead grew when Oracle's bow rose high and then plunged into the bay as they aggressively turned around the second marker.

New Zealand then held its position ahead of Oracle, firmly keeping the door closed to passing lanes.

New Zealand was comfortably ahead by the final leg of the race on San Francisco Bay and crossed the finish 52 seconds ahead of Oracle.

Oracle's deficit in the best-of-17 series is more daunting thanks to the two-point penalty imposed on the holders before the finals began, for rules infractions in the America's Cup World Series.

New Zealand must win nine races to claim the coveted Cup, while Oracle has to win 11 to retain the prize.