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Bring it on, says written-off America's Cup challenger

·3-min read
Luna Rossa is challenging Team New Zealand for the America's Cup

Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena insisted the Italian syndicate was full of confidence ahead of its America's Cup showdown with Team New Zealand in Auckland on Wednesday, despite being written off by bookies and pundits.

Sirena said the Italians had been underestimated at every stage of the America's Cup build-up, despite posting convincing wins over rival challengers American Magic and Ineos Team UK.

The veteran sailor, in his seventh America's Cup campaign, was unsurprised Luna Rossa was again being labelled the underdog against a powerful Team NZ outfit.

"It's happened a lot... a lot of people say the Italians, they're going to go back home crying," he told reporters Tuesday.

"Now we're in the final and there are people saying the Italians will need a miracle to beat Team New Zealand."

Kiwi bookmakers rate Team NZ almost three times more likely than Luna Rossa to lift the Auld Mug, with a 7-0 clean sweep in the best-of-13 series regarded as the most probable outcome.

Experts have been similarly dismissive of Luna Rossa's chances, with four-time cup winner Murray Jones declaring, "I think Team New Zealand will win easily."

As defending champions, Team New Zealand set the design parameters for the yachts being used in Auckland, giving them a technological edge on the 23-metre (75-foot) boats, which fly above the water on carbon fibre foiling arms.

They also have the advantage of sailing in home water and Sirena acknowledged Team NZ had been among the world's strongest teams over the past 35 years.

But he said Luna Rossa had proved itself in lighter winds -- which are expected in Auckland's Waitemata Harbour on Wednesday -- and had achieved an impressive top speed of 53.4 knots.

"We feel confident... we've had a few big ups and downs and received, with merit, a few criticisms from the media and public," he said.

"We've worked hard to get stronger and stronger after each race, regardless if we won or lost... everyone's really ready to go out racing tomorrow, we've got nothing to lose."

Sirena was relieved to be on the water after the coronavirus forced delays to the Auckland regatta and cancellation of some lead-up events, as well as intensifying the usual pre-race squabbling over race rules and scheduling among the teams.

"It's been a long campaign with Covid," he said.

"A lot of talking out of the water -- sometimes too much talk out of the water, which isn't good for our sport."

Regardless of the outcome, Sirena said he wanted future editions to retain the space-age AC75 yachts, which reach high speeds on their foils while the hull is balanced precariously in mid-air.

"We're still at the beginning with this class (of yacht) and I hope whoever wins keeps going with them because it's the most exciting boat I've ever sailed in my life," he said.