Against all odds, the 36th America's Cup match is turning into an absolute classic.
All the talk about a clear Team New Zealand superiority has vanished, after the Italians brilliantly won the first race on Friday, making more history for the European syndicate.
But the defenders, under immense pressure, bounced back strongly in the next race, with 1:03 victory to level the series at 2-2.
It sets up a brilliant contest.
It's already the best America's Cup series seen on these waters – eclipsing 2000 and 2003 by some distance – and could end up being talked about alongside Rhode Island in 1983 and San Francisco in 2013 as a regatta that changed the course of the sport.
Both teams will take confidence – and a morale boost – from Friday.
The Italians overcame issues with their mainsail before the start of the first race, with speculation they were considering using their delay card, to sail superbly, shutting the door on Team New Zealand with an assured technical display. They led by 38 seconds at the fifth gate – the biggest deficit the Kiwis have faced so far in the series – and eventually banked a 37-second win.
For Team New Zealand, there was the satisfaction of bouncing back after consecutive defeats, and even more significantly, beating light air specialist Luna Rossa in her favoured conditions, a rare event for the Italian boat since December.
After a short delay – due to some spectator boats encroaching on the course – the first race was under way at 4.23pm, with the breeze fluctuating between nine and 10 knots.
With Luna Rossa on port entry, Team New Zealand took a more aggressive approach, opting to turn and lead back.
Both teams were early with their time on distance and forced to make a parallel run along the line, before sharp tacks to head out onto the course.
The Italians had a barely perceptible advantage – a matter of metres – but that all changed with a quite brilliant manoeuvre. As Te Rehutai tacked ahead of the left-hand boundary, they were well positioned, with right of way as the boats headed back for the cross.
But Luna Rossa delayed their transition for a vital couple of seconds, before tacking right on top of Team New Zealand, in one of the best manoeuvres seen this summer.
That gave the Italians the lead, and left Te Rehutai searching for a way back. The Europeans allowed a split on the first leg, but still led by 13 seconds after the first lap.
The pattern of the race changed on the next leg, as Luna Rossa sailed an impeccable third leg to stretch their lead to more than 300 metres.
By the fifth leg it was 450 metres, with no chance of a way back for the defenders.
Team New Zealand had to take advantage of their port entry in the second race – likened by TVNZ expert commentator Peter Lester to having serve in a tennis match – but almost blew it, as a sharp turn saw them fall off their foils a minute before the start.
That encouraged Jimmy Spithill to go for a hook, but that move didn't quite pay off and the boats were even off the line, after Te Rehutai had regained momentum.
But Luna Rossa was in dirty air and tacked away early, allowing Team New Zealand to edge ahead.
Their advantage was only seconds at the first gate, but everything changed with a bungled Italian gybe towards the end of the second leg, as one foil arm failed to drop. That turned a small lead into a massive gap and Te Rehutai sailed her own race from there.
Heading into the Cup racing?
• Give yourself plenty of time and think about catching a ferry, train or bus to watch the cup.
• Make sure your AT HOP card is in your pocket. It's the best way to ride.
• Don't forget to scan QR codes with the NZ COVID Tracer app when on public transport and entering the America's Cup village.
• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit at.govt.nz/americascup.