Peter Burling's team quickly got back on level terms as the USA - helmed by Jimmy Spithill - failed to recover from an early penalty in race one for crossing the start line too early.
The latest generation of twin-hulled America's Cup catamarans, featuring towering, 78-foot fixed-wing sails, can reach speeds of more than 50 miles per hour (80.5 km/h) as they rise above the water, virtually flying on their hydrofoils.
But the Kiwis later came off their foils during a hard maneuver and slowed dramatically in the tough conditions, losing half their lead. As the holders, the Americans hold all the trump cards and will start as favourites, particularly given that one-point head start and the fact that they beat the Kiwis in both their head-to-head races during the qualifiers.
Team New Zealand needs to win four more races to return the Auld Mug to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland, where it resided from 1995-2003.
Peter Burling, helmsman for Emirates Team New Zealand, left, and teammate skipper Glenn Ashby react after winning the second race against Oracle Team USA during America's Cup match sailing competition Saturday, June 17, 2017, in the Great Sound of Bermuda.
Race 2 is to follow.
Yesterday, Team New Zealand rocketed out of the blocks taking an early 1-0 advantage in their first-to-seven series off Bermuda.
'I definitely think this bonus point advantage is going to be important, ' Spithill said. Theyre going to be there when we need them.. Races three and four are on Sunday.
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But Burling is taking nothing for granted after the US fought back from 8-1 down to take the famous old trophy when the boats last clashed in San Francisco four years ago.
Hes already going strong as he attempts to win a third straight Americas Cup with Oracle Team USA, the powerhouse squad owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison.
"The good news is, we're only one back".
Emirates Team New Zealand faces Oracle Team USA in the America's Cup sailing m.
"It's pretty obvious, these guys are faster and we need to make some serious changes", Spithill said.
Blair Tuke, a crewman on Emirates Team New Zealand, responded with a cartoon of a gassed-looking bald eagle failing to keep up with a trim kiwi speeding away on a bicycle.
The always-innovative Kiwis are using a "cyclor" grinding system.
"I think it just shows that you guys will fall for anything", Spithill chuckled.