Auckland, New Zealand (March 10, 2021) – First created to compete for the 2000 America’s Cup, Luna Rossa won the challenger series on their first attempt but lost the 30th America’s Cup match against the defending champion team, Team New Zealand.
Over 20 years later, this was no longer the team that lost five straight to the Kiwis. Eager today to learn whether the defender had any massive advantages, the Italians now know they have a chance to flip the script in the 36th edition.
For the defender, it has been 3 years, 8 months, and 12 days since they won the 2017 America’s Cup in Bermuda, and if day one revealed anything, they will need to leverage every moment of that time if they seek to keep the Cup.
In winds around 10-15 knots, these teams were close enough to make the bookmakers worried about the Kiwi domination they had envisioned.
Race 1 – NZL (port entry) vs ITA
The Kiwis hadn’t raced since December 2020, and the battle-tested challenger was eager to put on the pressure. After the defender led the pair toward the right side of the start box, their turn back to the start line found Italy gybe in front of them.
Assessing the time and difference, the Kiwis looked to be in trouble as they were stuck on Italy’s windward hip, and as Italy headed up and slowed down, it looked to be all going well for the Italian team.
However, with both boats on starboard and aiming toward the port end, an unforced error by Italy saw them bear away before the gun, giving the Kiwis space and a jump at the start.
As New Zealand accelerated better off the line, they rolled the challenger, and adding to their first mistake, Italy tried a desperate luff that earned no penalty but lost 100 meters in distance.
One of the storylines is how the Kiwi foils have about 30% less surface area than Italy which amounts to less drag but also makes them vulnerable at slower speeds and turning. So what would be the result?
NZL went tack-for-tack with Italy on the first upwind leg, posting a 14 second lead at the first mark that would only grow.
But either through Kiwi confidence in their boat, or concern about its maneuverability, the the rest of the 3-lap race had the defender ignoring the challenger, preferring to bounce off the boundaries for what would be a 31 second margin at the finish.
Race 2 – ITA (port entry) vs NZL
After Race 1 was lost at the start for Italy, they proved not to make that mistake again. When the Kiwis positioned themselves behind Italy on the final approach to the start on starboard, the defender hoped to push the challenger to an early start.
However, both teams proved to be late, and when the gun sounded, Italy wad directly ahead and in full control at the start of the 3-lap race.
Any question of whether AC75s could match race was set aside as Luna Rossa pulled out the text book on how to control an opponent on an upwind leg. Going tack for tack, tight covers when needed, the Italians were in full control with a 13 second lead at the first mark.
There was little New Zealand could do except wait for their opponent to make a mistake, and that happened on the third and final upwind leg when Italy split sides and gave the Kiwis some space. What was a healthy lead shrank down to 150 meters until Italy regained control to shut the door.
While the Kiwis narrowed the margin on the final run, it would not be enough with the challenger winning by seven seconds.
America’s Cup Match Scoreboard (wins-losses)
Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL): 1-1
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team (ITA): 1-1
After advancing as the winner of the PRADA Cup, Italian challenger faces the Kiwi defense in the best of 13 series. The 36th America’s Cup Match racing schedule has two races per day planned for March 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, and each day after that until the first team has won seven races.