America's Cup 2021: 'We've got nothing to lose': Luna Rossa embraces underdog status against Team NZ

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli chief executive Max Sirena has had one simple message for his team heading into the start of their America's Cup match against Emirates Team NZ.

"We've got nothing to lose," says Sirena. "We can only win."

Alongside co-helmsmen Australian Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni, the 49-year-old veteran will guide the Italian challenge into nautical battle against the hosts in the opening race of their best-of-13 series in Auckland on Wednesday.

Sirena bears the scars of numerous defeats at the hands of NZ boats, dating back to the 2000 America's Cup, but he insists this time is different.

"In my 25-year career, I don't really look to the past because every campaign and every race is different," he says.

"I'm not focused on the past, I'm really focused on what's happening next.

"Were racing against a team that has proven to be one of the best in the world in the last 35 years.

"I don't have a crystal ball so I don't know if they're going to be surprised or not, but what I can tell you is I feel more confident this time than all the other times I've raced against them."

Rumours have been floating around the Viaduct about Team NZ's mythical speeds, with suggestions the defenders have been hitting the 60 knot mark in practice. 

But their true capabilities are still shrouded by mystery. Team NZ haven't raced since the Christmas Cup regatta, when they made light work of the Italians, and with further improvements and adjustment made since then, are confident they're now even faster.

At Tuesday's pre-race press conference, both Sirena and Team NZ counterpart Peter Burling flatly denied having recorded a speed faster than 57 knots.

"It's hard to judge performance by just watching them sailing," Sirena notes.  "We don't have any data on them, apart from a little from the Christmas Cup.

"It is a little bit of an unknown, but we know they are fast, because when we raced against them they were fast.

"It's hard to tell where the differences are going to be. We know we have some strengths in certain conditions. We know we could be strong in the pre start."

After a drawn-out period of pre-race speculation caused by the COVID-19-enforced rescheduling, it's clear that both teams are ready to put the posturing aside and let their boats do the talking.

"In this sport, we race against the best in the world, and to try to be the best in the world we need to be better than them.

"The only way for us to beat them is to sail well and have a boat with good speed."

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