America's Cup 2021: Team NZ vanquish American Magic, Luna Rossa for world series honours

Team New Zealand have claimed early bragging rights over their America's Cup rivals, but showed they still have a lot to learn about their fickle AC75 boats.

Victories over American Magic and Luna Rossa have secured world series honours for the hosts on Auckland's Waitematā Harbour and Hauraki Gulf, and top seeding for Sunday's Christmas Cup event.

Those outcomes catapulted the Kiwis atop the series table with five wins and just one loss, and success over the Americans - helmed by former Team NZ skipper Dean Barker - was particularly sweet, after they inflicted their only loss on Thursday.

But Barker and the two-head Luna Rossa monster of Francesco Bruni/Jimmy Spithill both got the better of Peter Burling at the start, putting the Cup holders on the back foot early.

Team NZ finally hauled in American Magic halfway through their encounter and eventually sailed 1m 19s clear, but still needed to account for the Italians in the regatta finale.

Again, Burling lost the start and trailled by 30 seconds at the top mark, when Te Rehutai fell off its foils and could not regain its poise in the light winds. Luna Rossa streaked out to an 800m lead, but also splashed down midcourse, so the contest become a matter of who could get back on their foils first.

The Kiwis stayed calm and eventually gathered enough speed to take off, quickly overhauling their rivals and building a lead, before the Italians also recovered.

"I was a bit happier when they came off their foils after us," admits Team NZ flight controller Blair Tuke. "There were a few nervous moments at the top mark... but an awesome effort to get going again from the lads and we managed to keep it going for the rest of the race."

Luna Rossa closed to within a few metres upwind, but the home team did just enough to stay clear with the wind at their backs to prevail by 16 seconds.

"I think both American Magic and Luna Rossa are going really well in these conditions," says Tuke. "It has been an epic day's racing."

The schedule was delayed more than an hour, when the flukey conditions forced a course change, with spectator craft slow to clear the raceway off Auckland's East Coast Bays.

Finishing atop the table, Team NZ now draw Team UK in the semi-finals for Sunday's Christmas Cup event, while American Magic take on Luna Rossa.

After their opening-day tribulations, the Brits were much improved on Friday, but reverted to form in the closing rounds, struggling to stay aloft when tacking in light conditions. They obviously have a long way to go before they can hope to compete against the other three teams on even footing.

Join us at 3pm Sunday for live updates of the Christmas Cup sailing regatta