Team NZ take 5-3 lead in America's Cup

·2-min read

Team New Zealand have surged to a 5-3 lead over Jimmy Spithill's Luna Rossa in the America's Cup after a dramatic race eight, leaving the holders in pole position to retain the trophy.

TNZ won the day's first race by 58 seconds but splashed down in the second leg of the second after a poor gybe and were unable to get up on their foils for several minutes, allowing Luna Rossa to charge to a four-minute lead.

But the Italians then splashed down near the third gate and incurred boundary penalties as they searched desperately for wind.

TNZ roared past them and negotiated the tricky final legs to win by three minutes and 55 seconds after clocking a sluggish 38:57.

Luna Rossa were crestfallen, having blown the chance to level the match after the New Zealanders had appeared dead in the water.

"Never in the bag as you saw, pretty tough conditions," said Luna Rossa's Australian co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill.

"We did some things well, some things we've got to tidy up. But we know we can win races. We've been in tough positions before ... we'll come out firing tomorrow."

The two race victories put TNZ within touching distance of the trophy, the oldest in international sport, and the defenders can wrap up the best-of-13 series on Tuesday when racing continues.

"What a race," TNZ flight controller Blair Tuke said.

"It was a pretty unreal fightback from the guys.

"(Luna Rossa) made a mistake in one of their tacks at the top mark ... It's really light wind and patchy and they made a mistake and we never looked back."

The second race was a major contrast to the smooth progress of the first in which TNZ threw down the hammer with raw pace in more stable wind.

However, the defenders were actually outpointed during the pre-start and Luna Rossa hit the line at speed to hold a slender lead through the first two legs.

The Italians opened the door for TNZ with a tactical mistake on the third leg, allowing the New Zealanders to make the first pass of the match and roar to victory with a time of 25:17.