America’s Cup 2021: Team New Zealand meet their match as Luna Rossa claim dominant Prada Cup final win over Ineos Team UK

Team New Zealand have met their match in the form of Luna Rossa.

The Italian syndicate have earned the right to challenge the Kiwi crew in the America’s Cup match next month, winning the Prada Cup final series 7-1 against Ineos Team UK.

Luna Rossa only needed one race on match point to punch their ticket, winning both of Sunday’s races to claim an emphatic series win; and the last race of the series might have been their most impressive.

Earlier in the day, Luna Rossa put their foot on the throats of Team UK – overcoming an average start to quickly find the lead on the first leg before going on to take a 1min45sec win – before pressing down in what turned out to be the final race of the series.

Facing elimination, Team UK went on the attack inside the starting box with an aggressive play that forced Luna Rossa across the starting line early.

That drew a 50m penalty on the Italians, who split to the opposite side of the racecourse to the British to try and burn it off.

They did so, and once the penalty was cleared, seemingly at the flick of the switch – and with co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill’s instruction of “go boys, go” – Luna Rossa sped ahead and quickly ate into the Team UK lead.

Soon after the halfway point of the first leg, the Italians had taken the lead and had a 12-second lead at the first gate. The margin held through the second gate, before they extended it the 34 seconds on the third leg.

From there they kept the foot down and closed out a 56-second win to put an exclamation mark on an impressive series.

“It’s a great day for us, a great day for Luna Rossa and a great day for Italy,” co-helmsman Francesco Bruni said after Luna Rossa punched their ticket to the America’s Cup match.

Throughout the campaign so far, Luna Rossa have gone from strength to strength as they get more and more comfortable with their AC75 and how to get the best out of the vessel in a race setting.

That could perhaps be attributed to the fact they have competed in the most races of any of the syndicates – having come through the semifinal series against American Magic – but Luna Rossa have improved considerably since their first race of the America’s Cup World Series last December.

While the defender hasn’t had a race since that December series, Team New Zealand have watched on with interest as the finals series has unfolded and will now plan exclusively for a series with Luna Rossa, which begins on March 6.

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