Team New Zealand stage remarkable comeback to open up America's Cup lead

Team New Zealand surged to a 5-3 lead over Luna Rossa in the America’s Cup after a dramatic race eight on Monday as both boats struggled to stay on their foils in light winds off the coast of Auckland.

TNZ won the day’s first race by 58sec but splashed down in the second leg of the second after a poor jibe and were unable to get up on their foils for several minutes, allowing Luna Rossa to charge to a 4min lead.

But the Italians then splashed down near the third gate and incurred boundary penalties as they searched desperately for wind.

TNZ roared past them and negotiated the tricky final legs to win by 3min 55sec after clocking a sluggish 38:57.

The two race victories put TNZ within touching distance of trophy, the oldest in international sport, and the defenders can wrap up the best-of-13 series on Tuesday when racing continues.

“What a race,” said TNZ flight controller Blair Tuke. “It was a pretty unreal fightback from the guys. They made a mistake in one of their tacks at the top mark… It’s really light wind and patchy and they made a mistake and we never looked back.”

Luna Rossa were crestfallen, having blown the chance to level the match after the New Zealanders had appeared dead in the water.

“Never in the bag as you saw, pretty tough conditions,” said Luna Rossa co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill. “We just fell off the foils and got stuck at the top mark for some time just trying to find enough pressure to get back up on the foils.

“We did some things well, some things we’ve got to tidy up. But we know we can win races. We’ve been in tough positions before … we’ll come out firing tomorrow.”

The second race was a major contrast to the smooth progress of the first in which TNZ threw down the hammer with raw pace in more stable wind.

However, the defenders were actually outpointed during the pre-start and Luna Rossa hit the line at speed to hold a slender lead through the first two legs.

The Italians opened the door for TNZ with a tactical mistake on the third leg, allowing the New Zealanders to make the first pass of the match and roar to victory with a time of 25:17.


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