America's Cup 2021: Deadlock continues, as Team NZ, Luna Rossa split wins on day three

Emirates Team NZ were again forced to play catch-up, but have hung tough to level their America's Cup series 3-3 with challengers Luna Rossa off Auckland.

The Italians sent another shock wave through hometown fans, when they broke the apparent dominance of boats entering the pre-start from port.

All four previous races had gone the way of teams allowed in to the starting box first, but that trend came to a crashing halt, when Team NZ fell of their foils and trailled their rivals early.

Try as they might, the Kiwis could not get their noses back in front and eventually followed Luna Rossa home 18 seconds behind.

Needing to steal one back, NZ skipper Peter Burling achieved almost a complete reverse of the first start, with counterpart Jimmy Spithill stalled behind the line and Te Rehutai rocketing off the mark.

"That was a good one to have the boat speed like that," reflects foil controller Blair Tuke. "The big speed difference was very pleasing and just like yesterday, a really good reply from the guys - a good way to finish another tight day."

Team NZ eventually finished 1m 41s clear - the biggest margin so far in this series - and if there is some consolation for the struggling Kiwis, they do seem to have the quicker boat.

They are consistently faster, but are often forced to sail further by their opponents' match-racing tactics.

When they get ahead, they have the ability to open big margins over the Italians and even when they're behind, they can keep the contest closer - but those starts still hold the key.

Tuke received a boost before the start of Saturday's racing, when the NZ Air Force flew in formation over the racecourse, wishing Team NZ well on the water.

The squadron was led by uncle Ian Tuke.

"That was pretty awesome," says Blair Tuke. "We were just coming around North Head, as they came overhead, and we saw all the boats out here at the same time.

"That was a cool moment."

Both teams return on Sunday, still trying to gain a decisive edge in the race to seven wins.

Join us at 4:15pm Sunday for live updates of the America's Cup match between Team NZ and Luna Rossa