(Reuters) - Italy's Luna Rossa continued to dominate the Challenger Series final by winning both races on Sunday to extend their lead over INEOS Team UK to 4-0 at Auckland's Waitemata Harbour.
INEOS, skippered by Ben Ainslie, had suffered from poor starts in losing the first two races on Saturday and they also found themselves playing catch-up in the third race.
Taking a poor position in the pre-start, 'Britannia' trailed by about 100m across the starting line and Luna Rossa coasted to victory by 13 seconds.
Jimmy Spithill and co-helmsman Francesco Bruni found another gear in the fourth race as Luna Rossa opened up a 12-second advantage through gate one.
The Italian team maintained their tight grip on the contest to cross the finish line 41 seconds clear and are now just three wins away from advancing to face holders Team New Zealand for the America's Cup from March 6.
The best-of-13 Challenger Series was set to resume on Wednesday but organisers have postponed the races after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a three-day lockdown in Auckland.
The move comes after the country's biggest city reported three new local COVID-19 cases, the first local infections since late January.
"America's Cup Event Ltd will be working with the authorities and relevant agencies over the next few days to work through the ongoing ramifications," organisers said in a statement https://www.americascup.com/en/news/1080_Covid-19-Update-Statement-from-Americas-Cup-Event-Ltd.
Ainslie, who was informed about the lockdown on the way to the news conference, backed the decision.
"It's a timely reminder of what the world's going through, isn't it? We're very fortunate to be out here doing a yacht race which we all love, so it's a difficult situation," he said.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)