Ben Ainslie’s Ineos Team UK are into the final of the Challenger Series – which will determine who faces Team New Zealand for the America’s Cup in March.
The team, on board ‘Britannia’, won a third round-robin race against Italy’s Luna Rossa on Saturday, making it their fifth victory from five starts.
Luna Rossa will face American Magic in the best-of-seven repechage semi-finals for their place in the final.
“That was one for the fans, a pretty awesome race,” said Ainslie.
“It was great to take part in, lots of lead changes, neck and neck all the way to the line. Full credit to the Luna Rossa guys for pushing hard.”
After the weather had caused an initial delay in Auckland, the start had to be pushed back further after Ineos Team UK had an issue with the cunningham, which is a control for the mainsail.
They were not without their problems once the race started, trailing by 10 seconds after four of the six legs before pulling back to win by 33 seconds.
Four-time Olympic sailing champion Ainslie added: “The guys did an awesome job getting us round the track in one piece and getting the win.”
The challenger series began on 15 January and runs until 22 February, starting with a round-robin where the three challengers compete in eight races.
The round-robin winner – Ineos Team UK – proceeds to the final, while the other two challengers face off in a seven-race semi-final.
The final begins on 13 February, with the first yacht to win seven races qualifying to face Team New Zealand for the America’s Cup from 6-21 March.