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Rivals neck-and-neck after America’s Cup day two

Italy’s Luna Rossa continued to defy expectations and match America’s Cup favourite Team New Zealand Friday, 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 contested on Friday 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 1min 3sec victory.

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 Friday 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. 

Earlier, there were reports that Luna Rossa was experiencing technical problems with its foil arms, which lift the yacht’s hull above the water.

But the Italian boat showed no untoward signs as it took a 10-second lead in the first leg, extending it to 37 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.

“We really found it pretty hard to find any (wind) shifts to get into it,” he said.

“We had to do a couple of extra manoeuvres on the first run which put us a bit too far behind to catch up.”

Jousting for position in the starting box has proved decisive in all races so far, with the yacht that gets in the best position fending off any overtaking manoeuvres.

The fourth race followed the same pattern as Team New Zealand took a narrow lead on the early legs.

They were in complete control when one of Luna Rossa’s foils failed to deploy properly in the third leg, with the victory margin blowing out to the largest seen so far in the regatta.

Racing will resume on Saturday.

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