'Flying' yachts flail in America's Cup challenge

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Auckland (AFP)

Fickle winds produced farcical scenes on day two of the America's Cup challenger series in Auckland Saturday as the so-called "flying" yachts spent almost as much time in the water as above it.

"I'm not sure today is a really accurate read because it's so puffy, it's shifty," British sailing legend Ben Ainslie said after his INEOS Team UK maintained their perfect start to the Prada Cup series with a third straight win.

The series will determine which of the 23-metre (75-foot) yachts -- which fly above the water balanced on hi-tech foil arms -- will challenge defending champion Team New Zealand for the America's Cup in March.

INEOS lost so much time by falling off its foils in its duel with American Magic it was in a race against the clock on the final leg, reaching the finish line with less than two minutes to spare before the 45-minute cut-off point.

American Magic finished with only one second remaining, which was an improvement on its performance in the day's other race when it failed to finish against Italian entry Luna Rossa.

Ainslie said it was "intense" sailing "trying to keep the boat up on the foil because every manoeuvre you knew that if you come off the foil, that might be the end of the race."

American Magic helmsman Dean Barker described the racing conditions as "a lottery".

"You question why you want to do that as part of the event. But it is what it is. Swings and roundabouts and it obviously didn't go that well for us," he said.

After three races each, INEOS has three wins, Luna Rossa one and American Magic nil.

The Prada Cup runs until February 22, beginning with a series of round-robins.

The winner proceeds to the final, while the other two challengers face off in a seven-race semi-final.

The final begins on February 13 and is a best-of-13 contest, with the first yacht to win seven races victorious.

The winner then faces Team NZ from March 6-21 to compete for the main prize.