America's Cup 2021: Team New Zealand play down capsize as foreign press lauds Team UK improvement

Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling has played down Monday's capsize, instead praising the boat designers for keeping his crew safe and boat intact.

The America's Cup defenders suffered their first serious setback of the campaign during a practice race against rapidly improving INEOS Team UK.

The incident has been described as "embarrassing" by The Times, while Sail World's Richard Gladwell claims Team NZ "cracked" under the pressure from the UK crew and skipper Sir Ben Ainslie.

But Burling is typically unphased in evaluating what happened.

"[We got] a bit too high in the jibe and stopped pretty quick," Burling says. "It's a pretty big load on the bow when it hits, we just wanted to do some checks, but everything functionally was working pretty well on the boat, so we just towed in on the foil.

"If you'd done that same kind of manoeuvre on the cat on Bermuda, you'd be in hundreds of pieces. Full credit to the design of these boats that they are still in one piece."

Lost in the drama of Team NZ's brief swim was the speed and skill shown by the Brits.

Ainslie out-gunned Burling in both starts on Monday and the Team UK boat was more than a match for the Kiwis, both down and upwind.

Described as the "lamest of ducks" by the British press during the Christmas Cup regatta, The Times now claims the boat is "looking more on the pace".

And the improvement of Team UK didn't go unnoticed by the defenders.

"Ben and the British guys did a fantastic job today - they started extremely well and they were excellent opponents for us around the track," notes skipper Glenn Ashby.

"So hats off to those guys… pretty exciting yachting and one of those ones that, at the end of the day, everyone is enjoying the practice."

Gladwell is also impressed and believes new life has been breathed into the UK challenge.

"Had this been a Cup match, the Brits would have come away with the points for a win," Gladwell writes. "And had this been the opening day of AC36, the Brits would be cock-a-hoop - and rightfully so." 

"Ben Ainslie looked like he could push the boat hard and made the seemingly invincible Kiwi team crack under pressure.

"That is not to say Emirates Team New Zealand were not impressive - as seen in the ACWS, when the occasion warranted, they can definitely find a fifth gear/light the afterburner when the need arises."

Join us on Friday for live updates of the America's Cup challenger series.