America's Cup 2021: Luna Rossa dominate American Magic to lead Prada Cup semis

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli are just two wins away from the America's Cup challenger finals, after dominating their plucky rivals on Auckland's Waitematā Harbour.

While NYYC American Magic deserve credit for patching up their boat and taking the water, after their spectacular crash two weeks ago, they had no answer to the Italians, who sailed two clinical races to claim the Prada Cup points.

In strong and shifty winds, both yachts produced heart-in-mouth moments, but emerged intact to race another day.

Luna Rossa helmsmen Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni outwitted counterpart Dean Barker during both starting sequences, with the Kiwi and his crew seemingly loathe to put full faith in their patched-up yacht, Patriot.

Both boats produced high speeds - Patriot actually topped the speedo at 53 knots during the opening race - but while the Italians navigated the course smoothly, the Americans were hesitant and repeatedly fell off their foils soon after rounding the top mark especially.

Luna Rossa took out the first contest by 2m 43s and extended that advantage to 3m 07s in the second, and are now halfway towards booking a showdown with INEOS Team UK in the challenger final.

"We are very happy," says Bruni. "The last races we did were not up to the standard we want, so there was a little bit of tension.

"In the past, the boat has not been the fastest in the strong wind, but we knew we had made some big improvements in performance. We had it in the numbers, but now to see it on the water is a different feeling."

Considering the challenges, the Americans can be proud of their off-water performance, but must now convert that into wins or they'll head home early.

"Tomorrow, we come back out swinging," says skipper Terry Hutchinson. "That's all you can really do.

"We know Luna Rossa are a formidable team and on top of the conditions today being hard, we just have to sail better.

"It was quite windy and the boats are always on edge in these conditions, but I wasn't even thinking about 12 days ago - I was thinking about whatever we could do right now to support the team to win."

Weather conditions over the next two days are expected to provide lighter winds, which have previously been Luna Rossa's strength, but if they cause delays, that could play into the Americans' hands.

Join us at 3pm Saturday for live updates of the America's Cup challenger series