America's Cup 2021: Respect flows between rivals with Emirates Team NZ on brink of victory

Team New Zealand will hit the water on Wednesday knowing one race win is all they need to retain the America's Cup.

Another thrilling race on Tuesday saw the Kiwis score a come-from-behind victory, taking the lead towards the end of leg 4 (of 6).

Some pundits called the see-saw contest one of the greatest in America's Cup history, while others believe the match has been the finest finale since Australia wrestled the 'Auld Mug' off Dennis Connor's Stars & Stripes in 1983.

And while there is an intense rivalry between the crews of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and Team New Zealand, both sides were full of praise for their rivals after an enthralling race nine.

Italian co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill has a love-hate relationship with both Kiwis, and the Cup defenders, but he showed his class post-race on Tuesday, lauding the effort of Te Rehutai's crew. 

"Firstly I just want to congratulate those guys [Team NZ] on a fantastically sailed race," Spithill says.

"That was one of the best races I've ever been in and they never gave up, so I think it's important to acknowledge how well they sailed."

It's a long way removed from the Australian's mental warfare that haunted Team NZ in 2013.

With the Kiwis leading 8-1, Spithill threw the infamous line "Imagine if those guys lose from here" - and the rest is history with Spithill and Oracle Team USA pulling off one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history.

But when pushed to say something similar on Tuesday, Spithill wouldn't bite.

"The scoreline doesn’t lie, these guys won the only race of the day. I think there is a lot of respect amongst these sailing teams, and we enjoy the fight.

"We live to see another day, and we are looking forward to getting out there.

"That was a fun race to be involved in, obviously we would have liked to have come out on top, but man, that was a lot of fun."

America's Cup 2021: Respect flows between rivals with Emirates Team NZ on brink of victory

And countryman Glenn Ashby shared similar admiration for the Italian challengers.

The Team NZ wing-trimmer coached Spithill at a previous America's Cup regatta and has been a part of the Kiwi setup since 2013.

Speaking on the outcome of race nine, Ashby was quick to throw praise at Luna Rossa.

"They've sailed extremely well," said 

"It's been tough, the racing has been great in these boats, and, from a design perspective, not only are we getting high-performance yachting, but we are getting high-performance, high-speed match racing and that was showcased today in extraordinary fashion."

And the 43-year-old Olympic silver medallist backed the call of race director Iain Murray to call-off race 10, even with Team NZ sitting on match-point.

Ashby said the unpredictability of what the wind may have brought with it mid-race could have led to an unfair contest.

"It was absolutely the right call. A big left shift came through, and everyone was very happy with the decision. We're happy to get out there tomorrow and race on a fair racecourse."

Racing is expected to shift back to courses A or E on Wednesday, with the forecasted Northwest wind unlikely to suit the fan-friendly course C.

And that's a shame for both spectators and the crews, with Tuesday's race proving why course C provides the most variable conditions and best racing action.

"We have been speaking for days now about if we could get on course C we are going to see some action, and that is exactly what you saw," Spithill said. 

"It is a dynamic course and things can change very quickly."

Join Newshub for live updates of the America's Cup from 4pm, Wednesday.