Bengaluru — Luna Rossa advanced to March’s America’s Cup match against Team New Zealand (TNZ) on Sunday after winning both races on day four, crushing Ineos Team UK 7-1 in the Challenger Series final in Auckland.              

Having won their first race of the best-of-13 series on Saturday, Ben Ainslie’s Team UK made a confident start once again and took a slender lead before the Italians roared back into the contest.

Luna Rossa raced past their rivals in a flash to take control heading into the first gate and never looked back, crossing the finish line 1 min 45 sec ahead for a 6-1 lead. Despite conceding a penalty for an early start, Jimmy Spithill and co-helmsman Francesco Bruni found another gear in the eighth race as Luna Rossa coasted to convincing victory by 56 sec.

“Let’s get those sails down, boys, and get in for a beer,” said Spithill as they approached the finish line. Bruni was beaming with delight at the end of the race.

“Fantastico,” he said. “It’s a great day for us, a great day for Luna Rossa and a great day for Italy. We’re in for a great fight for the America’s Cup now.”

Luna Rossa, who have won 11 of their last 12 races, will have a second tilt at the world’s oldest sporting trophy when they take on holders TNZ on March 6. The two teams previously went head to head in the 2000 America’s Cup match in Auckland and in the 2007 Challenger Series final in Valencia. TNZ swept both ties 5-0.

It was another frustrating and disappointing day at the office for Team UK, who entered the Challenger Series final as round-robin winners but found themselves playing catch-up to Luna Rossa. Ainslie conceded the better boat had won the series as Team UK’s wait for a first America’s Cup win continued.

“I know it’s a big deal in Italy, getting to the America’s Cup final again, so congratulations to Jimmy and the team,” he said. “They sailed brilliantly and deserved to take the final.”


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