Match point Team New Zealand. The America's Cup defender beat Italian challenger Luna Rossa by 30 seconds in the only race that could be sailed Tuesday to move ahead 6-3 in the first-to-seven-win series in Auckland.
For the third race in a row, Team New Zealand came from behind to beat Luna Rossa, delivering a crushing blow to the morale of the Italian team which has been constantly competitive in the 36th America's Cup match but plagued by bad luck or bad decisions.
Luna Rossa led around the first four marks on the six-leg course but not by more than 9 seconds. On a day of light and shifty conditions, when the race course had to be set and re-set, Team New Zealand picked up a right shift on the last beat to snatch the lead and the race.
Throughout the afternoon the breeze — sometimes full at 15 knots, at other times light and puffy at 7 knots — tracked from southwest to west and back on what is known as the Stadium Course. Course C is closest to the land of the five Cup course, overlooked by North Head and visible to traffic on Auckland's busy Tamaki drive.
The start of the second of the day's two races was delayed as the breeze again flitted about, defying the match committee's efforts to set a true course. Finally the race committee admitted defeat and as the wind again wheeled to the west, the 10th race was postponed.
The teams will return Wednesday in what is likely to be a more stable breeze for what could be the last rites of the 36th Cup match, in the same area in which Team New Zealand beat Luna Rossa 20 years ago to defend the Cup in the 30th match. Italy has never won the America's Cup.
Relive the action below:
Team New Zealand unleashed their 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 on Monday and take a 5-3 lead in the first-to-seven wins series.
If Team New Zealand retain the Cup - they can do so if they win both races Tuesday - it will be because of the unprecedented events of the second of Monday's two races when they 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 became 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. Their race boat, Te Rehutai, dropped off its foils and was left almost stationary 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 their 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 Team New Zealand managed to finish inside the time limit for the race, to win by 3 minutes, 55 seconds.
"What a race," Team NZ flight controller Blair Tuke said. "It's one to keep.
"It was a pretty unreal fightback. We obviously made an error gybing right behind them on the first downwind and fell off the foils [but] we got it up reasonably quickly and sailed a great race from there."
For Luna Rossa, the events of the Monday were demoralising after a close tussle on the first three days of the series.
"It was pretty tough conditions," Luna Rossa co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill said. "We were sailing a pretty good race. Unfortunately we just came off the foils and really got stuck at the top mark for some time, just trying to find enough pressure to get back up on the foils.
"We know we can win races. We've been in some tough situations before and the guys will keep their heads up."
Team New Zealand's rumoured speed hadn't been seen in the first six races when the teams traded wins, splitting two races on each of the first three sailing days when there were light winds and no chances of overtaking.
The defender showed an extra turn of speed Monday, coming from behind for the first time in the series to win the first race of the day by 58 seconds.
"It was good to actually get a pass finally," Team NZ helmsman Peter Burling said. "Then to extend as we did after the pass was pleasing as well."
Luna Rossa comfortably won the start of race 7 which, in keeping with the trend of the series, should have meant they won the race. They rounded the first mark 8 seconds ahead and sailed a strong first downwind to be 10 seconds ahead at the second gate.
But it was already apparent from the data coming off the boats Team New Zealand were sailing faster.
The race completely changed at the second mark when Luna Rossa rounded and headed to the left and Team New Zealand tacked and bore away to the right. The Italians chose not to cover, gave the Kiwis some separation for the first time and Team New Zealand turned a match race into a drag race.
When it came back on port, Team New Zealand couldn't quite cross and Luna Rossa tacked away. But Team New Zealand were much faster and simply sailed on in the first passing manoeuvre of the series.
By the top mark Team New Zealand were already 19 seconds in front and their lead blew out as the race continued; to 27 seconds at the fourth mark and 40 seconds at the fifth. The course was skewed as the wind moved left and the last leg was a straight run to the finish.
"We tried to keep them behind us but obviously it wasn't a success," Luna Rossa co-helmsman Francesco Bruni said. "We have seen the first pass and unfortunately it was against us."
Regatta Director Iain Murray warned there could be another day of no sailing, after racing on Sunday was called off due to low winds, with conditions looking less than ideal on Tuesday before picking up again later in the week.
"Tomorrow, it doesn't look pretty," Murray said on Monday. "I guess we'll wait and see with that one.
"A big factor yesterday [Sunday] was that the clouds started coming back over the city and once the land stopped heating the winds stopped."
Murray will decide on the racing course and provide an update on the conditions on Tuesday morning.
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 16: Race 9 and 10
Mar 17: Race 11* and 12*
Mar 18: Race 13*
* if necessary.
Team New Zealand - $1.33
Luna Rossa - $3
Overall winner of the America's Cup:
Team New Zealand - $1.10
Luna Rossa - $6
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.