Luna Rossa wins Challenger Series opener

·2-min read

The first day of racing in the final of the America's Cup challenger series between Team UK and Italy's Luna Rossa measured what British skipper Ben Ainslie called the "trade-off."

Team UK dominated the challenger series round-robin, winning all of their races to progress directly to the final. Luna Rossa was forced to advance through a semi-final series against US challenger American Magic.

In winning the round robin, the British team gained more time to hone and develop their boat ahead of the Prada Cup final, while Luna Rossa had the advantage of more racing in their 4-0 series win over American Magic.

The question hovering over the final series was which team had the best side of the trade-off: was time in the boatshed more valuable than time on the water?

Luna Rossa's impressive performance Saturday in beating Team UK twice to start the best-of-13 race series in Auckland suggested the latter route was the better one.

Team UK's extra development time didn't appear to have helped them overcome their vulnerability in the light winds in which the first race of the day was sailed. Luna Rossa's greater time on the racecourse was apparent in their slicker crew work which was evident in the second race, sailed in stronger winds in which the teams were more closely matched.

"There is no special ingredient for getting better," Luna Rossa helmsman Francesco Bruni said.

"It's a lot of work (which needs) the help of the whole team and time in the water and a lot of work on the shore.

Ainslie believes his team also has improved, though they hadn't completely addressed their light wind performance.

"I think they are two very even teams over 10 knots of wind," he said.

"I think you could put either sailing team in either boat and they could win.

"But in lighter airs Luna Rossa has an edge in speed on us. That has been the case since we started racing here.

"We were ready for it, the guys fought hard but today we came up short. Tomorrow we won't."

The Challenger Series winners take on Team New Zealand from March 6 for the America's Cup.