America's Cup 2021: Emirates Team NZ retain 'Auld Mug' with crucial win over Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli

And the America's Cup is still... well, you know the rest!

Emirates Team NZ have scored a crucial win over Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli on Auckland's Hauraki Gulf to complete a 7-3 series victory and retain the 'Auld Mug'.

After falling behind 3-2 on Sunday, the Kiwis used their local knowledge to sweep the last five races in the best-of-13 match.

After reaching matchpoint on Tuesday with victory in the perhaps the best race of the series, Team NZ sealed the deal with a clinical performance against the Italians.

Racing was delayed half an hours, as race officials switched the nothernmost Course A to match shifting wind directions. The breeze was up to strength and Luna Rossa drew the early entry to the start box, a dominant position on that particular track previously.

Luna Rossa helmsman Jimmy Spithill had largely outduelled counterpart Peter Burling at the start throughout the series, but Burling produced his best for last.

Both were intent on securing the right end of the line, with the best wind conditions up that side of the course. Burling expertly manoeuvred Te Rehutai to that position and defended it, to grab the early advantage.

"I think we've been learning all week and had a lot of very even starts," reflects Burling. "But with that one, we wanted the right and were willing to give up the first tack to get there.

"From there, we really showed what this boat can do. We're really happy with the package we've got here and when we get to stretch our legs, it's a pretty nice boat."

By the top gate, the Kiwis' advantage was seven seconds and they stretched that down every subsequent leg - nine seconds at the second gate, 27s at the third, 37s at the fifth and eventually 46 seconds at the finish. 

"It's unreal and just coming back to the chase boat, and all the people involved in this campaign over three or so years... all the people out here, supporting the event again," says Burling.

"It just means the world to us as a team to achieve what we have as a group and defend the America's Cup. It's just been the most amazing experience along the way."

Burling was at the helm, when Team NZ lifted the Mug off Oracle Team USA four years go in Bermuda, but rated this achievement above that.

"I don't think you can think of a more special environment than this," he says. "Over a couple of thousand boats out each day, the village absolutely packed with people everywhere...

"To do something like this on home waters is something the whole team is incredibly proud of."

Only a few days ago, when they twice held the series lead overnight, Luna Rossa seemed on the verge of something incredible for a nation that has fallen short of Cup victory so many times. In the end, this was another case of 'close, but no cigar'.

"I just want to congratulate New Zealand," says helmsman Francesco Bruni. "They did a fantastic job, but I also need to congratulate Luna Rossa - an amazing team.

"We proved to the world that we could do it, but hard luck in the last couple of days. Definitely, we've done a great job as a team."

Aussie Jimmy Spithill - Team NZ's America's Cup nemesis in 2013 - could not produce another miracle comeback on Luna Rossa this time, despite his early dominance of Burling in the series' early starts. 

"I feel very lucky to be embraced into the Italian team," says Spithill. 

America's Cup 2021

Race 1 - Team NZ beat Luna Rossa by 31 seconds

Race 2 - Luna Rossa beat eam NZ by seven seconds

Race 3 - Luna Rossa beat Team NZ by 37 seconds

Race 4 - Team NZ beat Luna Rossa by 1m 3s

Race 5 - Luna Rossa beat Team NZ by 18 seconds

Race 6 - Team NZ beat Luna Rossa by 1m 41s

Race 7 - Team NZ beat Luna Rossa by 58 seconds

Race 8 - Team NZ beat Luna Rossa by 3m 55s

Race 9 - Team NZ beat Luna Rossa by 30 seconds

Race 10 - Team NZ beat Luna Rossa by 46 seconds 

Team NZ win series 7-3