Luna Rossa have bounced back with an impressive win on Friday, outsailing the more fancied American Magic to bank an important victory.
Jimmy Spithill gained some early bragging rights over his old rival Dean Barker, taking down the previously unbeaten Americans.
The Italians picked the wind shifts well, and looked happier in the lighter airs.
Barker’s crew will rue a costly mistake early in the race, when their boat almost keeled over after a delayed lift of the windward foil arm.
That gave the Italians a big lead – though the deficit was down to four seconds at one point, and it looked like the Americans would reel them in.
But it never happened, and Luna Rossa gained a morale-boosting result, crossing the finish line 12 seconds ahead.
Yesterday they had suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Team New Zealand (3:13), before an unopposed victory over INEOS Team UK, when the British boat broke down.
Spithill admitted his crew were off the mark with their manoeuvres against the local syndicate, with some clunky tacks. They also had problems before the start with their navigation systems.
They didn’t begin well on Friday, ending up on the wrong side of the start line and incurring a penalty for early entry.
American Magic got the ideal start on port, while Luna Rossa had to drop more than 50 metres behind the Americans by doing a early tack, to clear the penalty.
But soon afterwards there was a heart-stopping moment for the Americans, as there was a delay with the lifting of the windward foil, which saw the boat almost tip over to the right.
“Bad tack, bad tack by American Magic… this could be difficult,” TVNZ commentator Peter Lester said while the Americans were teetering dangerously.
“Luna Rossa who had a penalty to clear, they sail off into the distance. Barker is absolutely filthy with himself.”
For a moment it looked like there would be a slow-motion capsize, but they righted themselves relatively quickly, though gave up a big advantage.
The Americans trailed by several hundred metres at the first mark, but that deficit had been reduced to 14 seconds by the end of the initial lap, after the Italians were forced into a couple of extra gybes just before the mark.
Patriot started to close the gap on the third leg – clearly sailing higher and faster – and the Italian lead was only four seconds at the halfway point of the race.
Despite the Americans having an apparent speed advantage, some clever sailing by Luna Rossa allowed them to stay ahead and they had extended to 13 seconds again at the end of the second lap.
Spithill and Bruni forced Barker into an awkward rounding of the mark, which gave the Europeans some breathing space and they were good enough to hang on, aided by another timely wind shift.
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