Teams even after opening day of America's Cup

Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa took a race each on the first day of racing in the America's Cup....
Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa took a race each on the first day of racing in the America's Cup. Photo: Getty Images
At the final stage of the 36th America's Cup campaign, it appears nothing has changed in the way racing unfolds; win the start, win the race.

On the opening day of the America's Cup match between Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa, the familiar pattern played out with the teams trading wins to finish the day tied at 1-1 in the first-to-seven series.

In the opening race of the series, it was the defender who came away with the spoils with a 31-second advantage. In the second, Luna Rossa got their revenge and claimed a seven-second win.

"We just followed our plan, kept it calm and the boat did the rest of the work," Luna Rossa co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill said.

"It's great to be competitive and great to get a race win."

In a contest where many expected Team New Zealand would have the faster boat and therefore win with ease, Luna Rossa showed just how much they have developed their performance since the America's Cup World Series, largely matching the Kiwi crew for boat speed, which left the results down to the sailing.

As Spithill got the better of his Kiwi counterpart Peter Burling in the start box, the challenger got off to a great start and by the second leg had amassed a 250m lead.

With neither team making a mistake on the course, Team New Zealand looked to find a passing lane by taking a split around the third gate after following Luna Rossa around the course for the first two legs.

Luna Rossa got out to a big lead through four legs, but Team New Zealand showed that, just maybe, we will see some passing in this series as the Kiwis quickly ate into the lead on the penultimate leg, halving it from a 24-second split to just 13 seconds around the fifth gate.

They gained even more ground on the final leg, but ran out of course as Luna Rossa held on for a slim victory to square the ledger.

"We definitely looked a little bit rusty in that one," Burling said after the second race.

"It felt like if there had been another lap we might have had a good chance."

Over the past weeks, there have been suggestions that Te Rehutai has been hitting never-before-seen speeds in training - but former America's Cup sailor and commentator Nathan Outteridge called reports of Team NZ's speed edge "greatly exaggerated".

"These boats are pretty evenly matched. Luna Rossa look like they're making small gains every time they tack. With these numbers...there's nothing in it but every time they manuevre, they're making their gains," Outteridge said.

Colleague Stephen McIvor agreed, suggesting "those who were saying Te Rehutai is much faster must be eating their words".

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