It was buzzy, breezy and, if you were a Luna Rossa supporter, beautiful on the water and off as the Prada Cup finals kicked off under a summer stunner yesterday.

Thousands flocked to bars and eateries or parked themselves in front of big screens at Auckland’s Viaduct as the Italian syndicate took on Ineos Team UK in the opening races of a best of 13 series to determine who’ll challenge Team New Zealand for the America’s Cup.

It was a triumphant day on the water for Luna Rossa, first across the finish line in both races to take a 2-0 lead over the British.

That was good news for proud Luna Rossa supporter Tama Di Muro, who was born in Senegal but raised in Italy, his father’s native country.

“It’s been quite easy for Luna Rossa, but there’s still a long way to go.”

Standing in the sunshine among hundreds also drawn to the waterfront by the premier sports event, the Eden Terrace scaffolder said he’ll likely be back for future races – two more of which take place this afternoon.

“I like sports, any sports, and this is a good atmosphere.”

He was also doing his best to enjoy the freedoms and events not available to friends and family in Italy, which was devastated in the early months of the Covid-19 outbreak and where freedoms are again being restricted in some areas amid concerns about new virus variants and a rising rate of infection.

“It’s kind of boring there, and you don’t know when it’s going to go away. They’re just waiting. In New Zealand, it’s been great.”

Simon Johnson was also watching yesterday’s opening races from the fan zone.

The Glen Eden dad brought his kids, Esme and Henry, along for the first time.

“I like the atmosphere here, the buzz of the event.”

Johnson was supporting Team UK, because he admired how they’d fought back from a clean sweep of losses in the Christmas races.

“They came back from a hopeless situation. It’s awesome.”

Looking at a packed fan zone full of people enjoying themselves in the sunshine, free of the lockdowns being endured by so many overseas, he was also feeling grateful, Johnson said.

“It’s important to remember how fortunate we are.”

It could be another busy day at the Viaduct today, with two more races scheduled and fine weather expected to continue.

“It’s looking like another lovely, settled day although it might be cloudier,” MetService meteorologist Tahlia Crabtree said.

Prada Cup sailors can expect a steady nor-easter of around 15 knots on the Hauraki Gulf, possibly rising to 20 knots by the time racing begins, expected soon after 4pm.

Spectators may find themselves under cloudy skies by late afternoon, but it’ll be dry and warm – a high of 26C is forecast in Auckland today.

Those hoping for rain further north will be pleased – wet weather is expected to develop through the day in Northland, and patchy light rain may also fall in parts of Auckland tonight.

Elsewhere should be mostly fine and, for some, warm – Hamilton can expect 27C while Taupō, Tauranga, Napier and Christchurch will warm to around 24C.

It’ll be cloudy with a high of 20C in Wellington, with the deep south of the South Island also cloudy and cool.

Wet weather and gusty easterlies arrives for many in the upper north with the start of the working week, Crabtree said.

“There’s a low risk of heavy falls over Northland, Auckland and possibly Waikato and Coromandel. The upper North Island can certainly expect rain during Monday and, likely, Tuesday. It’ll probably be quite humid in the upper North Island too.”

Southern areas will be more settled, but also cooler with a southerly arriving by Tuesday – when Christchurch’s forecast high is just 17C, Invercargill’s 15C and Dunedin’s an especially nippy 14C.

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