Luna Rossa's Jimmy Spithill admits Team New Zealand are heading into the America's Cup as "clear favourites".
Speaking at the Italian syndicate's second boat launch, the Team NZ nemesis who led Team USA's unvelievable 8-1 comeback to beat the Kiwi team in 2013 outlined the reasons he believes the holders will be "tough" to beat.
"To me they are the clear favourites, no two ways about it," Spithill said of Team NZ. "They're in the home waters; they've had a lot of sailing time down here. With their boat one they did a really nice job.
"They're always very innovative, very practical and logical, and tough. They've got incredible sailing talent on the boat. So there's no two ways about it.
"We've got enough on as it is getting through the challenger series. That's going to be a fight in itself, but taking on the Kiwis in the home waters, man that's going to be a tough one."
The 41-year-old Australian said he was keen to get the second boat in the water after already being the last team to arrive in New Zealand.
"The clock's ticking," he said. "The other guys are on the water now and we need to get out there as quick as we can. We're the last to arrive and we've got to get some hours at that race track."
Spithill also said he sees his transtasman rivalry with Team NZ as more of a "healthy respect", although he is still hurting from the All Blacks' win over the Wallabies last Sunday.
"New Zealand in itself there's a healthy rivalry as we saw on Sunday," he said of the Wallabies' loss in the second Bledisloe Cup clash at Eden Park over the weekend. "[It was] tough on me in the aftermath. A bit of money has changed hands unfortunately after that weekend ... from my wallet to my Kiwi mates over the rugby result."
"It's just a healthy respect," he added about the rivalry with the Kiwis. "People love seeing competitive teams come out here. We'd like to think we're going to be competitive.
"It's all going to come down to the second boats. How quickly we can get in the water, how quickly we can get these boats operating at a 100 per cent, and who does the best job developing from now on."
When asked about the war of words that has slowly emerged ahead of the racing, Spithill said it will be what happens on the water that matters.
"For any competition, the results do the talking. You can talk as much as you want on the land – and with the America's Cup there's always a lot of that – but at the end of the day they'll give the trophy to the team that wins on the water."
Luna Rossa was the third challenger to launch their second boat after American Magic last Friday and INEOS Team UK a day after the Americans.
Team NZ have yet to announce when they will be launching their second AC75 but are expected to do so in the next two weeks.