America's Cup 2021: Emirates Team NZ, Luna Rossa share honours on opening day's racing

After a week of off-water speculation, Emirates Team NZ and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli have finally traded blows on the water in their America's Cup match off Auckland.

The result - an early stalemate.

While the Kiwis drew first blood with victory in the opening race, predictions that their foiling monohull Te Rehutai was significantly faster than their rivals' proved off the mark, as the Italians bounced back to take race two.

On both occasions, the starts proved crucial. 

"It was one of those racetracks where I thought the lead boat had the advantage," reflects Luna Rossa helmsman Jimmy Spithill. "In the first one, they were able to get ahead, after we didn't get the penalty.

"Then we were able to get ahead, and were able to pick and choose when to tack and jibe.

"It's great to be competitive, great to get a race in."

At the first start, both yachts hit the line together, but Team NZ helmsman Peter Burling got the jump on his counterparts - Luna Rossa have Spithill and Francesco Bruni as dual helmsmen - cutting in front of them on the first beat.

The Italians lodged a protest, but were declined and never really got back into the contest, eventually losing by 31 seconds.

But the roles were reversed for race two, with Team NZ trailling off the line - race coverage included an expletive off the Kiwi boat, as they realised their mistake - and they drifted as far as 25 seconds off the pace, before a withering sprint downwind brought them within seven seconds at the finish.

"We definitely didn't get the best start," admits Burling. "We definitely look a bit rusty in that one, but it was good to get back into them on that last beat and really show that we are good downwind.

"It fell like, if there had been another lap, we might have had a good chance."

Much of the pre-race mystery surrounded Team NZ's lack of competitive racing since their victory in the pre-Christmas world series on the same racecourses. Their preparation revolved mainly around simulated racing against their chase boat.

'It was great to get that first win under our belt," Burling says. "We did really well in that pre-start... but in the second one, one mistake and your life is pretty difficult.

"We've got plenty to go home and debrief, and one thing the America's Cup always shows is the person who wins the last race will win it."

The rivals now have a couple of days to regroup, before resuming their race to seven wins on Friday.

Race one - Team NZ win by 31 seconds

Race two - Luna Rossa win by seven seconds

Series level 1-1

Join us at 4:15pm Friday for the next America's Cup race between Team NZ and Luna Rossa