By David Wharton
7:40 PM EDT, August 17, 2013
The 2013 America's Cup, which has struggled through a nearly disastrous few months, suffered another black eye Saturday with the start of the challenger finals in San Francisco.
Emirates Team New Zealand won the first in a best-of-13 series that saw both boats significantly damaged and a second scheduled race postponed until Sunday.
Even before the start, Luna Rossa Challenge of Italy suffered a malfunctioning starboard dagger board. Though able to start the race, Luna Rossa came to a dead stop in the first moments as the board once again broke loose.
That left the favored Emirates to cruise around the course alone in a glorified practice run. But coming around a windward mark, the massive, sleek catamaran nosedived into the water. Two crew members were thrown overboard and a large piece of fairing on the aft side of the main crossbeam ripped loose.
Rob Waddell and Chris Ward were picked up by a rescue boat with no reported injuries.
This has been a controversial America's Cup with tech billionaire Larry Ellison, owner of the defending-champion Oracle Team USA, choosing to race with the expensive, fleet -- and fragile -- AC72 catamarans instead of conventional monohulled yachts.
Ellison hoped to attract more fans with a faster brand of racing, but traditionalists have scoffed and only three international challengers decided to enter the competition.
The criticism grew louder after two training accidents in the spring, one of which claimed the life of British sailor Andrew "Bart" Simpson.
Luna Rossa and Emirates are competing for the right to face Oracle in the Cup finals next month.
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