Luna Rossa, Team NZ neck and neck

Challengers Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli competing against defenders Emirates Team New Zealand in race four of the 36th America's Cup in Auckland yesterday.
Challengers Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli competing against defenders Emirates Team New Zealand in race four of the 36th America's Cup in Auckland yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

AUCKLAND • Italy's Luna Rossa yesterday continued to defy expectations and match America's Cup favourites Team New Zealand, with the rival yachts on two wins apiece after day two of racing in Auckland's Waitemata Harbour.

Written off by pundits ahead of the regatta, Luna Rossa won the first of two races by 37 seconds, to go up 2-1 in the best-of-13 series.

But the Italian syndicate suffered technical problems in race four, allowing defending champions Team New Zealand to hit back and make it 2-2 with a 63-second win. There was little advantage to either boat in light winds, and Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling said the contest would be determined by sailing ability.

"It's definitely small margins and we feel like we're improving all the time," he said. "They're definitely setting the bar pretty high and making us work hard."

Coronavirus-related crowd controls were lifted in Auckland yesterday morning, resulting in huge crowds and a large spectator fleet on Waitemata Harbour.

The start of the first race was delayed by 10 minutes after some of the boats strayed into the course, while there were also reports that Luna Rossa were having technical problems with their foil arms.

But the Italian team still managed to take a 10-second lead in the first leg, extending it to 37sec at the finish line.

"We just ran a clean race," Luna Rossa co-helmsman Francesco Bruni said.

Burling said Team NZ were frustrated because being in Luna Rossa's wake hampered the Kiwis' ability to make the most of what winds were available.

Jostling for position in the starting box has proved decisive in all races, with the team who get in the best position fending off any overtaking manoeuvres.

The fourth race followed the same pattern as Team New Zealand took a narrow early lead. They were in charge when one of Luna Rossa's foils failed to deploy properly, with the victory margin the largest seen in the regatta.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


AMERICA'S CUP

Races 5 & 6: Singtel TV Ch111, 11.10am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2021, with the headline 'Luna Rossa, Team NZ neck and neck'. Subscribe