America's Cup 2017: Britain lose to New Zealand but beat France to progress

Sir Ben Ainslie's Land Rover BAR team in action on Thursday
Ainslie's team battled hard to defeat France at Bermuda's Great Sound

Great Britain secured a play-off place at the America's Cup by narrowly defeating France in a thrilling contest at the end of Thursday's racing.

The GB crew had earlier lost to New Zealand and retired with their opponents having already finished.

But a late manoeuvre saw them clinch a crucial victory against France, who had earlier lost to Japan.

Sir Ben Ainslie's Land Rover BAR team now have an unassailable lead over bottom-of-the-table France.

All but one of the six teams taking part of this stage go through - though Team USA, as holders, will skip the next stage of the competition and return for the actual America's Cup matches.

In their first race of the day Britain had been level with the New Zealand boat heading to the first mark but lost their way after a disastrous gybe saw the boat nosedive and turn sharply.

They soon trailed by 350 metres and Ainslie could be heard asking: "What happened? What happened?"

Britain's previous two victories in Bermuda came against Sweden.

Racing continues on Friday - but it is a rest day for the British crew.

Standings and how it works

  • *Land Rover BAR (GB) started the round-robin qualifiers with two points and Oracle Team USA with one point after finishing first and second respectively in the 2015-16 World Series
  • Each team races the other teams twice in this stage, gaining one point per victory, with the top four progressing
  • Defending champions USA skip the next stage and advance automatically to the America's Cup matches
America's Cup - all you need to know

What about the rest of the field?

Racing had been rescheduled after organisers decided winds on Wednesday were too light to let sailing go ahead in Bermuda.

Japan defeated France by almost six minutes in Thursday's opening race - taking them on to three points, one above the French.

The United States then defeated Japan by more than half-a-minute to move on to seven points at the top of the standings.

The light wind speed made for challenging conditions but Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill produced a tactical masterclass - a change of tack resulting in the American boat transforming a 22-second deficit into a 35-second lead between the fourth and fifth gates.

Spying and flying - The secrets behind an America's Cup boat


Friday, 2 June

Racing from 18:00-20:00 BST

Race 8 - New Zealand v Japan, Race 9 - Sweden v United States, Race 10 - New Zealand v France, Race 11 - Japan v Sweden

What happens next?

Holders Oracle Team USA advance automatically to the actual America's Cup matches while the top four qualifiers are split into two best-of-five semi-finals from 4 June, with the winners competing in the final for the right to take on the USA.

The first to seven points wins the America's Cup, or the Auld Mug as the trophy is known, with a possible 13 races to be sailed on 17-18 and 24-27 June.

The America's Cup, the oldest competition in international sport, was first raced in 1851 around the Isle of Wight and has only been won by four nations.