Team New Zealand's boat speed has again bailed them out after a bad start, closing an early gap to beat Luna Rossa in the final race of the America's Cup World Series - a battle described by TV commentators as "bizarre" - to claim the title.
Luna Rossa were by far the better crew in the starting box, flying across the starting line well ahead of Team New Zealand and crossing through the first gate 32 seconds ahead.
They were able to extend their lead soon after, getting ahead by about 800m as Team New Zealand came off their foils coming around the gate.
However, Luna Rossa suffered the same fate in the light winds on the second leg, parking up in the middle of the course. At that point, it was a matter of who would be in position to catch the next wind and get back onto their foils.
"I've never seen anything like this" said AUT Sailing Professor Mark Orams in his Herald live blog. "Bermuda had none of this, with boats parked in water."
In the true spirit of home field advantages, it was Team New Zealand who received the help of Mother Nature, and were soon back up on their foils and sailing at 30 knots. With Luna Rossa parked up, Team New Zealand scooted past the Italians and held a lead through the second gate.
As the teams rounded the second gate, it was announced the race had been shortened from six legs to four, meaning there were just two lengths of the course left to sail.
A poor tack from Team New Zealand saw them momentarily drop off the foils again, as Luna Rossa closed the gap.
Just 18 seconds separated the teams through the penultimate gate, with Team New Zealand in the lead as the two split the course once more.
It was enough for the Kiwi crew to send it downwind and take a 16-second win.
"This has been the best race we've seen in these AC75s," said Orams. "The range of skills, the pressure on the teams...what a great race. Ridiculous, bizarre, fantastic."
In winning the World Series title, Team New Zealand will go into Sunday's Christmas Cup as the top seed and will sail against fourth seed Ineos Team UK in the first round.
American Magic will take on Luna Rossa in the other semifinal, after a tack gone wrong earlier robbed American Magic of the chance to get yet another win over Team New Zealand, with a tight race blown out when the Americans came off their foils in the third leg, and handed the Kiwi syndicate control in the World Series.
American Magic's Dean Barker could be heard saying "we have got to sort this out" on board when their vessel came off the foils, as Team New Zealand went on with the job in the second half of the race, eventually winning by 1:19.
At the start of the race, American Magic looking poised to further enhance their status as the leading challenger to the America's Cup, getting the better of the racing in the early going.
Both teams were a late into the starting box and stayed well clear of each other, crossing the line on opposite sides of the course and crossing one another down the first leg.
American Magic held a slim 12-second lead after the first leg, which was cut to just three seconds after two. Things looked to be getting even closer toward the third gate, but when the boats crossed near the marker, American Magic came off their foils.
"Dean Barker has had a shocker! Dean Barker has had a shocker!," Exclaimed commentator Scotty Stevenson, as the Yanks took some time to regather themselves.
It provided an opportunity for Team New Zealand to build a healthy lead, which they didn't waste.
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