America's Cup 2021 - From ally to foe: Luna Rossa's Max Sirena on why it's become personal with Team New Zealand

Only two days out from the start of the America's Cup and Team New Zealand were nowhere to be seen on Monday.

In a surprise move, the defender chose to stay in the shed in the countdown to racing, denying Luna Rossa any last chance to spy on their opponents.

But Italian skipper Max Sirena might already know everything he needs to know, holding the sort of inside knowledge that provides a secret to success.

Sirena lifted the 'Auld Mug' with Team New Zealand in Bermuda four years ago so he knows what it takes to win.

"They're always pushing hard, they never give anything - they're always pushing," Sirena says of Team New Zealand.

Sailing coach for the defenders, Ray Davies, says the relationship between Sirena and the team was positive enough for them to welcome him on board in Bermuda.

"It was an opportunity for Max to see how we operate as a team and how the culture is within Team New Zealand," says Davies.

But flash forward four years and now Team New Zealand hope that extension of the hand, won't come back to haunt them

"He's very competitive," Davies says. "He's been pushing for many years to win the cup."

Twenty years in fact. Sirena first joined Luna Rossa in 2000 - the last time the Italians raced for the America's Cup - ironically in Auckland.

They got demolished 5-0 by Sir Peter Black, Sir Russel Coutts, Brad Butterworth, Dean Barker and Black Magic

But since then, the Italians and Kiwis have been cup allies, seeing eye-to-eye on many controversial issues surrounding the running of previous events.

Luna Rossa even loaned the Kiwis a test boat before the Cup in San Francisco. 

But it's a relationship that's turned sour with the quest for the cup, turning friends into foes.

"There's a lot on the table," Sirena tells Newshub.

"It's not just the racing, there is ego, there is money there is...there is everything...and we know if you take part in the cup, you will see that.

Having got a taste of victory in last month's Prada Cup challenger series, Max Sirena's desperate to make history for Italy and take the 'Auld Mug' home with him.

Join us for live updates of the America's Cup regatta, starting Wednesday