(Reuters) - INEOS Team UK won a tight third round-robin race against Italy's Luna Rossa on Saturday for their fifth victory from five starts to storm into the final of the Challenger Series, which decides who will take on Team New Zealand (TNZ) for the America's Cup.
Luna Rossa will now meet winless American Magic in the best-of-seven repechage semi-finals starting on Jan. 29 for the chance to face INEOS Team UK in next month's final.
The American Magic team is repairing damage to the electronic system of their vessel "Patriot", which went airborne and hit the water before falling on its side last Sunday when leading the Luna Rossa team.
Saturday's contest between INEOS Team UK and Luna Rossa was delayed after the British side's skipper, Ben Ainslie, called for a 15-minute delay due to problems with the cunningham, a control for the mainsail.
The team's vessel, "Britannia", showed signs of issues even after the race began at Waitemata Harbour in Auckland and trailed by 10-seconds after four out of the six legs in a see-sawing contest before finding their groove to secure victory by 33 seconds.
"That was one for the fans, a pretty awesome race. 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," Ainslie said.
"We had a few issues ... we were missing one of the key settings for the power of the boat. The guys did an awesome job getting us round the track in one piece and getting the win."
Both teams then took part in single-yacht "ghost races" against the absent American Magic.
INEOS Team UK must decide whether to face Luna Rossa again on Sunday or propose that the redundant race be scrapped.
The winner of the series meet holders TNZ from March 6.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Robert Birsel)