With Team New Zealand the hot favourites to progress to next month's America's Cup showdown, skipper Dean Barker is warning against underestimating the Italian opponents who lie in their path.
Team NZ and Luna Rossa begin a best-of-13 Louis Vuitton Cup challengers' final in San Francisco on Sunday (NZ time).
The winners will earn the right to face off against America's Cup holders Oracle in September for sailing's biggest prize.
Team NZ easily accounted for Luna Rossa in the round-robin stage of the challengers' series, but Barker is eager to play down predictions of a procession when they meet again.
"Absolutely the wrong way to approach any race is to go out there and think it's a foregone conclusion," he said.
Barker believed Luna Rossa had shown in their 4-0 sweep of Sweden's Artemis in the challengers' semi-final that they had stepped up their game.
"They looked a lot slicker around the course and their boat-handling was a lot better," he said.
"We're expecting it's going to be a hard-fought battle."
Barker also highlighted the change in format from one 45-minute race to two of 25 minutes each day, saying the shorter contests reduced the margin for error.
"With the one less lap, if you get behind around that bottom gate, it's going to be very, very hard to pass, unless you have a massive speed advantage, which we're certainly not counting on," he said.
"We know we're going to have to race well, so the start, the rounding of mark one - executing those manoeuvres really well is going to be key to a good result."
But while Barker talked about not relying on a huge boatspeed edge, he also said Team NZ had made significant recent gains in the development of their catamaran.
After they won the round-robin stage, the syndicate opted not to contest semi-final, but instead go straight through to the final and spend the time working on the boat.
Barker said some of the biggest gains over the last six months of their programme had come in the past two weeks.
He also said Team NZ wouldn't hold anything in reserve against Luna Rossa.
"You can't afford to leave anything in the tank, because you snooze in this type of game and you're going to find yourself behind," he said.
"We have a very clear plan. We want to go out there and race the boat really hard. We won't change anything."
source: newshub archive