Team New Zealand unleashed its speed to achieve the first pass of the 36th America's Cup match, then came from a long way back in a bizarre eighth race to beat Italian challenger Luna Rossa twice Monday and take a 5-3 lead in the first-to-seven wins series.
If Team New Zealand retains the Cup - it can do so if it wins both races Tuesday - it will be because of the unprecedented events of the second of Monday's two races when it turned what seemed likely to be a crushing defeat into an almost incomprehensible victory.
Luna Rossa held an early lead in a race which began conventionally, defending that advantage to round the first mark with a 16-second lead. The race then become extraordinary — perhaps one of the most extraordinary in all of the Cup's 170-year history.
Team New Zealand looked likely to roll Luna Rossa on the first downwind but, as the boats came level, gybed away in a failing breeze. Its race boat, Te Rehutai, dropped off its foils and was left almost stationery in the middle of the course while Luna Rossa sailed away to four-minute lead.
The race seemed over and the deadlock that has existed throughout the match, as each team has won one race on the first three days, seemed likely to continue.
But, incredibly, after rounding the second mark Luna Rossa sailed into a wind hole near the top of the course, fell off the foils and was left wallowing and powerless. Team New Zealand rose up on its foils again and wore down the massive deficit.
Always on the point of stalling, Te Rehutai managed to round the top mark and to turn a deficit of 4 minutes and 8 seconds at one mark to a 4-minute, 27-second lead at the next.
The race was shorted to five legs and New Zealand managed to finish inside the time limit for the race, to win by 3 minutes, 55 seconds.
In the first race of the day, Team NZ showed an extra turn of their rumoured speed, coming from behind for the first time in the series to win the first race of the day by 58 seconds.
Relive the action below:
The America's Cup match resumed today in moderate conditions, however race director Iain Murray has warned of another uncertain day on Tuesday.
Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa duelled on Course E near Waiheke Island today, with winds between 9-13 knots expected for racing, starting at 4.15pm.
The schedule remained as was expected to be followed yesterday, with Luna Rossa getting port entry in the first race of the day.
The teams were unable to get racing yesterday due to a lack of wind. Murray said it got close at times, but never quite met the threshold to allow the teams to sail.
He warned there could be another day of that sort this week, with conditions looking less than ideal on Tuesday before picking up again later in the week.
"Tomorrow, it doesn't look pretty," Murray said. "I guess we'll wait and see with that one.
"A big factor yesterday was that the clouds started coming back over the city and once the land stopped heating the winds stopped...," Murray said.
Asked if teams had suggested calling a lay day tomorrow, Murray hinted at continued tension between Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa.
"It's a simple matter of they have to agree," Murray said. "Tomorrow looks light, that is the current forecast but they are not high-resolution models ... so it's just a bit early to tell. Right now it looks very unstable."
Sunday racing abandoned
Cup officials made the decision to postpone racing to Monday, with winds not picking up enough to reach the 6.5 knots threshold needed to race on Sunday.
On Saturday, Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand once again shared the spoils, with the Match tied at 3-3.
Luna Rossa exploited Team NZ's mistake in the pre-start to win the first race of the day by 18 seconds and, in a mirror image, Team New Zealand pounced on Luna Rossa's mistake to win race six by 1 minute, 41 seconds.
One team has to win both races in a day to break the deadlock but Luna Rossa co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill said the teams can only focus on the next race.
"We're not looking too far ahead," he said. "Each day we come in and try to focus on the race ahead.
"There will be quite a lot of lessons learned from both races today. We'll go back, as I'm sure will the other guys, and just come back fighting, stronger and ready to roll."
Until today, each of the four starts in the series had been won by the team that had port entry to the start box and that won the start. New Zealand skipper Peter Burling called that coincidence and was proved right when the team coming in from starboard, or right-hand side of the course, won both races on Saturday.
Races five and six were sailed on course A off Takapuna Beach in Auckland in a consistent sea breeze of seven to 11 knots, slightly fuller in the first race than the second.
The conditions again seemed perfect for Luna Rossa, whose boat is modelled to sail best in the lighter wind range. Luna Rossa's larger foils make it more able to stay up in light wind, also make it more stable and able to manoeuvre faster in the light sea breeze.
But although Saturday's 1-1 tie again left many questions unanswered, it seems the boats are almost perfectly matched in terms of speed in those conditions and the starts are decisive.
In the first race, on a time and distance run to the start line, Team New Zealand tried to wear off speed and fell off its foils. Burling had to push the bow down to regain enough speed to be able to tack and in the meantime Luna Rossa swept over the line and sailed away to an immediate 200m lead.
"We obviously just fell off the foil above them," Burling said. "We thought we had a little more time to kill than we actually did. We didn't quite manage to get going again and to take off and they shut down the race pretty well from then."
The lead was unchanged for most of the race. Team New Zealand made slight gains on the second and third upwind but the 200m lead remained.
Luna Rossa had wanted the left-hand side of the course and with its early advantage it was able to seize it and defend it. Throughout the race it kept bouncing Team New Zealand back to the less-favoured right side, taking advantage of the pressure in the middle of the course.
New Zealand was able to hang in throughout the race but, in a consistent breeze, it wasn't able to overcome Luna Rossa's initial advantage.
"I think we did a very good job on the start and again it proved to be a very important part of the race," Luna Rossa co-helmsman Francesco Bruni said. "But also I think we sailed a lot better than what we did in that second race yesterday.
"I think the left was the right call and during the race the right was not looking as good."
The second race of the day was the mirror image of the first. From port entry, Luna Rossa dived down into the far right corner of the start box but, as it prepared to turn back up on its run to the line, it seemed to get stuck in a light spot and wasn't powered up.
Luna Rossa slowed and Team New Zealand kept up speed on its time and distance run, crossing the line first and quickly sailing to a lead of almost 400m.
"I think it was just a matter of getting caught in no wind and we just couldn't get the boat going back to the line," Spithill said. "It's a bit of a minefield out there, especially down the start box and we just couldn't get the boat to accelerate."
- with AP
The America's Cup match is a best-of-13 series, with the winner being crowned champions and awarded the Auld Mug. The racing window for each race day will be around 4pm-6pm, with the first race of each day scheduled for 4.15pm.
Mar 15: Race 7 and 8
Mar 16: Race 9 and 10
Mar 17: Race 11* and 12*
Mar 18: Race 13*
* if necessary.
Team New Zealand - $1.65
Luna Rossa - $2.10
Overall winner of the America's Cup:
Team New Zealand - $1.50
Luna Rossa - $2.45
How to watch and stream:
The Herald will have live updates on nzherald.co.nz/sport with AUT's sailing professor Mark Orams, and you can listen to live commentary on Newstalk ZB, Gold AM and iHeartRadio.
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.