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'It's been a long time since Bermuda' - Jimmy Spithill motivated by 2017 as Luna Rossa earns America's Cup date with Team NZ

Luna Rossa faced little resistance on the water, but plenty off it, as the Italian syndicate won the America's Cup Challenger Selection Series finals.

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The Italians wrapped up the Prada Cup series today, beating INEOS Team UK 7-1. Source: 1 NEWS

Team UK, skippered by decorated Olympian Sir Ben Ainslie, was no match for a Luna Rossa team helmed by the formidable duo of Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni.

With a 7-1 victory, Luna Rossa have picked up one piece of silverware but what they're really in Auckland for is the oldest trophy in international sport - the America's Cup.

First they'll need to get past Team New Zealand.

The festa on the Luna Rossa dock promised to turn into a night of wild celebrations in Auckland on Sunday.

Luna Rossa coach Vasco Vascotto was ready to party but he was also said a little prayer because his team knows what's next.

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The Aussie is once again battling New Zealand for the Auld Mug. Source: Breakfast

"We spend three years together dreaming of this moment, so it's a time to celebrate obviously but we need to celebrate one day - no more- otherwise we lose the focus that we had to keep going," Vascotto said.

"We have good momentum and we wanted to try to do something special and I pray God light wind please, light wind."

To even sail the last races in the challenger series final was a fight.

The Italians squared off against event organisers, America's Cup Event, and insisted racing went ahead despite Auckland being in alert level 2 because of Covid-19 community cases.

Organisers wanted a delay in the hope of Auckland shifting back to level 1, allowing the public to watch.

It was a battle the visitors won.

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Luna Rossa are now just one win away from advancing to the America's Cup to face Team New Zealand. Source: 1 NEWS

And even though local fans were prevented from fully getting involved, Luna Rossa didn't lack support with a big turn out of their families and supporters when they returned to their base on Sunday night.

For an emotional Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena it was an important milestone to see off the challenge of the British and American Magic.

"It wasn't that easy to arrive here, the other two teams they were super strong, pretty well organised with good budgets and good people," Sirena said.

"Personally it is a big day for me, tomorrow we need to work even harder to try to be able to race against the Kiwis."

It's just the second time in their six attempts that Luna Rossa are through to the America's Cup racing.

Twenty-one years ago Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa met on the Hauraki Gulf and the New Zealanders made a clean sweep of the series.

For co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill it was a more recent loss to Team New Zealand in the 2017 America's Cup, when he was with Team USA, that still motivates him.

"It's been a long time since Bermuda and there's been a lot of sleepless nights since then."

Team New Zealand's boat, Te Rehutai, has been modified since the last time she was racing late last year and Sirena hoped the changes the Italians make to their AC75 over the next few days will see them match the New Zealand efforts.

"For sure they're fast, for sure we improved a lot compared to the last time we sailed them but I guess they improve a lot and they're really smart sailor, they're really smart as a team, as a designer so we need to be at our best to try to race on the same level with them," Sirena said.

As the attention turns to how the Italians will fare against the defenders, Team UK skipper Sir Ben Ainslie leaves the regatta giving a strong indication he'll be back.

Sir Ben was disappointed with what he called a tough campaign and he believed the British have unfinished business.

He might even be fueling the rumours that Team UK will be the next Challenger of Record given the chance.

"I started this team back in 2014 with the goal to get the Cup back to Britain, as far as I'm concerned until we get the job done it's not over so we've got to keep going."

It's now 11 days until the 36th America's Cup begins.

rnz.co.nz