9 Mar 2021

Team NZ and Luna Rossa speak ahead of America's Cup racing

11:25 am on 9 March 2021

By Carmina Blewett.

Neither side was giving much away as representatives of Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa this morning held a media conference ahead of tomorrow's America's Cup racing.

Watch it back here:

Team NZ's skipper and helmsman Peter Burling spoke alongside Luna Rossa's team director and skipper Max Sirena and chairman Patrizio Bertelli.

"We're preparing for a tight yacht race," Team New Zealand skipper Peter Burling deadpanned to reporters at a press conference at the Auckland Viaduct this morning.

Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena was similarly restrained.

It was premature to make predictions on the eve of the campaign, he said, though he did acknowledge talk of Team New Zealand's boat speed.

"But there is a lot of pressure on top of the team... It's too early for me; I don't have the crystal ball," Sirena said.

America's Cup teams Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand.

America's Cup teams Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand on the water in the Hauraki Gulf. Photo: Emirates Team New Zealand

Racing is due to begin for the best of 13 race series tomorrow about 4pm after it was delayed due to Auckland's Covid-19 alert level 3 lockdown.

Under Covid-19 alert levels 2 or 1, racing remains as planned for two races per day.

Race days in March are Wednesday 10, Friday 12, Saturday 13, Sunday 14, Monday 15 and each day after that until either the Team New Zealand or Luna Rossa reach seven wins.

Any changes to the schedule have to be agreed between both teams.

Both defenders and challengers for the Cup said they were feeling confident and as prepared as possible.

Burling was asked what was the key factor in the Cup - boat speed or handling in the AC75s, which "fly" out of the water on hydrofoils and can reach speeds of around 50 knots.

"I think it'll be a bit of a combination of all of the above. It's a really cool thing about the class of boat that both ourselves and Luna Rossa have come up with," he said.

"They're very dynamic and fast in a straight line, give you the ability to do a lot of manoeuvres at low cost. We're looking forward to a really tight race."

But on the subject of pre-starts, Burling was far more guarded; "You'll have to wait and see... Don't want to give many tricks away."

Sirena was equally cagey at times, especially when asked about boat speed or handling.

"I'll let you know tomorrow afternoon. To be honest we don't know."

One of the missing presences at the press conference was Luna Rossa helmsman Jimmy Spithill.

The Australian won the Cup in 2010 and 2013 with Oracle and then lost to Team New Zealand in 2017, but has been a significant factor in Luna Rossa's campaign this time around.

New Zealand convincingly demonstrated their revolutionary "foiling" yacht's speed in December when they won a pre-America's Cup series, which included Luna Rossa as well as British and US contenders.

But the Italians, who are using an unusual twin-helm set-up with Spithill and Italian sailing veteran Francesco Bruni, went on to win the Prada Cup.

The America's Cup, which was first won in 1851 by the schooner America in a race around the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England, is a design-led head-to-head competition which attracts some of the world's best sailors.

- Additional reporting Reuters

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