Sailing: Luna Rossa lead INEOS 2-0 in Challenger final

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(Reuters) - Italy's Luna Rossa dominated the opening day of the Challenger Series final as they opened up a 2-0 lead over INEOS Team UK at Auckland's Waitemata Harbour on Saturday.

The first race was effectively settled over the starting line as INEOS coughed up an early 600m advantage that the Italians never looked like giving up.

Ben Ainslie's INEOS also collected penalties for entering the start box too early and then for crossing the boundary. Luna Rossa, who crushed American Magic 4-0 in the semi-final, coasted to victory by one minute and 52 seconds.

Both teams made a solid start in the second race before Luna Rossa opened up a small advantage through the first gate. The Italians maintained their slender lead throughout the race before crossing the line 26 seconds clear.

"It was a good day, I thought the boys sailed really well onboard," Luna Rossa co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill said.

"There are still a few things we need to sharpen up on. But great job by the team. The boat was firing very well."

Ainslie was left to rue costly mistakes at the start of the opening race.

"One boat could get off the foil and one couldn't and that was the story," he said. "But it is what it is and we've got to do the best we can in the conditions and keep pushing."

The skipper was hopeful INEOS would turn things around on Sunday.

"They're a great team and it can be pretty hard to get past them. A different day, so let's see what we get tomorrow," Ainslie added.

The best-of-13 Challenger Series final ends on Feb. 22 with the winners taking on Team New Zealand from March 6 for the America's Cup.

(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)