A long wait failed to be fruitful for Team New Zealand today as they fell to Sweden's Artemis in a top-of-the-table clash in the Louis Vuitton Trophy yachting regatta in Italy.

The 18-second defeat off La Maddalena, near Sardinia, left Team NZ equal second with Russians Synergy on five points, one behind Artemis.

The New Zealanders still have to face hosts Mascalzone Latino in the preliminary round-robin phase, so can move ahead of Synergy - who have completed their nine races - before the draw is made for the knockout stages.

The Team NZ-Artemis encounter did not get under way until well after 6pm local time after crews in the 10-strong fleet were send ashore in mid-afternoon when the breeze got up to more than 20 knots.

The start was even and the boats were level pegging for the early part of the opening beat, but Artemis helmsman Terry Hutchinson was able to force NZ counterpart Dean Barker away.

Coming to the top mark, Artemis lost its gennaker pole overboard, but retrieved it intact.

During close action, Team NZ called a protest, but the umpires turned down the appeal.

Barker and his crew kept the contest tight for the remainder of the journey, but found no passing lanes.

- NZPA