Team New Zealand have clinched the America's Cup World Series but it was far from straightforward.
On a tricky day, with light, fluky winds, they battled arch rivals American Magic, before winning by a significant margin, then banked a nail-biting victory over Luna Rossa.
They were trailing in both races before coming back, with a crazy contest against the Italians - as both boats were submerged off their foils for a prolonged period, at one point crawling at six knots.
The result means Team New Zealand will take top seeding into Sunday's Christmas Race, but there is plenty of work to be done before March's America's Cup match, as the top two challengers look extremely competitive and light winds can create a lottery.
Their starts also remain a concern, with Peter Burling outwitted by Jimmy Spithill to give the Europeans an early advantage in the finale.
The Kiwi syndicate may have a speed edge – and smooth crew work – but the Americans and Italians aren't far behind, with Luna Rossa, in particular, improving significantly since Thursday's first races.
The British continue to flounder, however, with two more huge losses on Saturday. Britannia II's straight line speed is passable – though inferior to the rest – but they struggled again with any manoeuvre, displaying the dexterity of a cyclist on trainer wheels whenever they tried to turn.
It was a frustrating day for Sir Ben Ainslie's team, with the lighter conditions exacerbating their inability to stay on their foils. They were almost lapped in their first race, with Luna Rossa crossing the finish line while the British were still negotiating the fifth mark.
It didn't get much better against American Magic, as they were cleaned up again, despite a reasonable start, and failed to finish.
Saturday's racing was delayed by more than an hour, as officials struggled to move the spectator fleet off the newly set course, which was re-aligned as the wind shifted around.
Many craft in the large flotilla were seemingly unaware of the need to shift or unwilling to do it with a sense of urgency and that process will need to be tidied up before the Prada Cup next month.
When they were eventually cleared, the first race quickly became a procession - with the British crashing off their foils on the second leg and becoming almost painful to watch.
"They look like a beached whale in shallow water" was commentator Peter Montgomery's verdict on Gold AM and it was embarrassing at the end.
Dean Barker's costly move
Meanwhile, Team New Zealand's vital clash with American Magic turned on a poor tack by Patriot.
After a split start, the Americans edged away on the right-hand side of the course.
Dean Barker covered the Kiwis when they tacked and held a lead of 12 seconds at the first mark. A small wind shift boosted Team New Zealand just before the second mark, which reduced the advantage to three seconds.
On the third leg, Te Rehutai gained on the favoured right side, crossing just in front of Patriot - before an awful tack by American Magic.
"We have got to sort this out," said an exasperated Barker, as they flopped off their foils and edged sideways in the water.
That gave the Kiwis a 54-second advantage at the fourth gate, with a lead of more than 600 metres.
The Americans couldn't make any inroads in the second half of the race, with the margin more than a kilometre ahead at one stage.
The final race of the day showed why no locals should be complacent about March.
Both AC75s struggled to stay on their foils in the lighter conditions and there were several massive lead swings.
At one stage the Italians were 800m ahead before being overhauled, as Team New Zealand used the long part of the course to build speed and get back on the foils.
It was clever from the Kiwis – as the Europeans remained stationary in the water. The Italians momentarily held the advantage again, but Team New Zealand eventually prevailed by 16 seconds in a thrilling finish.
The Kiwis will face Ineos Team UK in Sunday's first semifinal of the Christmas Race, with the Americans and Italians in the other.
Sunday (course TBC)
NZ v UK
US v Italy
Race for 3rd
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