Team New Zealand are on the way to signing off their shortlived appearance on the MedCup circuit in style, leading the fleet after the first day of the season-ending regatta in Sardinia.
The Kiwi team will farewell the TP52 circuit after this season as they intend to concentrate on multihull sailing to ready themselves for the next America's Cup in 2013.
With an 8th, 2nd and 1st in the opening three races, Emirates Team NZ finished the day with 11 points, equal with the French-German entry Audi A1, but leading on count back. Their closest rivals for overall honours, American team Quantum Racing, could manage only a 9th, 3rd and 7th on the opening day, which saw Team NZ extend their season lead to over 50 points - virtually assuring them of the 2010 title.
Skipper Dean Barker said with the difficult conditions testing afterguards right across the fleet, results on the opening day were extremely mixed with "up and down results for every team".
Spanish yacht Bribon turned a good start in the first race into a winning finish, but followed with a 9th and an 8th. In the second race, Audi A1 got the jump on the fleet when after a strong start, they picked up a little extra breeze towards the top of the beat and led all the way to the finish.
Team New Zealand got away cleanly and ahead in the third race and again, were in control to the finish.
Barker said the race course was "tough all day - shifty, puffy with big swings. Really hard work".
"We missed an opportunity early on in the first race when we were very close to Cristabella. They tacked ... we were planning to tack to leeward of them but did not and continued straight on.
"Had we tacked we might have rounded the first mark in second place, but we missed a wind shift towards the top and went round eighth. Cristabella rounded second. It's the way it is sometimes - miss an opportunity and you can't recover.
"We bounced back in race two with a second and finished the day with the win. It was great to get ourselves back in contention."
The third race started in 6-7 knots of breeze. It swung hard left on the first beat and built quickly to more than 20 knots and there were big shifts in direction across the course.
Team NZ won the start and led around the first mark. They held off a determined challenge by Matador (Argentina) on the approach to the second windward mark, when the wind went back right and the three leading boats were well above the starboard layline and power reaching into the mark. Matador, with their 2, 8, 2 for the day lie third overall, only one point behind Team NZ and Audi A1.