'Bizarre' race puts Team NZ in sight of America's Cup win

Auckland (AFP) –


Team New Zealand overhauled a nearly four-and-a-half-minute deficit to move within sight of the America's Cup title after a "bizarre" race on Monday.

After overhauling Italian challengers Luna Rossa to win the day's first race by 58 seconds, the hosts were off their foils and looked well out of contention in the second race.

But the holders pulled off a sensational recovery to finish the day 5-3 up, just two wins from victory in the best-of-13 regatta on Auckland's Waitemata Harbour.

The Italians made the better start in both races, but it was the second that proved the most dramatic.

Luna Rossa co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill gained a narrow 16-second advantage on the first leg, but Team New Zealand looked poised to mow them down again.

However, at the last moment Team NZ came off the foiling arms that lift the hull out of the water, belly-flopping to a halt as Luna Rossa raced away.

Luna Rossa's lead extended to a seemingly unassailable four minutes 27 seconds before the light winds that forced the cancellation of racing on Sunday struck again, with the Italians this time finding themselves becalmed.

Team New Zealand managed to get back on their foils as the frustrated Italians watched on, with the hosts taking the lead and winning by 3mins 55sec.

America's Cup veteran Dean Barker, who skippered the unsuccessful US challenger American Magic in the lead-up events in Auckland, was left scratching his head.

"That was probably the most bizarre race I've ever seen," he said in commentary.

"To go from four minutes down to win by four minutes is quite incredible. One botched manoeuvre by Luna Rossa and game over."

Racing will resume on Tuesday, when New Zealand could potentially seal their defence of the 'Auld Mug' if they can again win two races.