America’s Cup 2021: More races for Team New Zealand in last-minute schedule change

As the challengers prepare to race in the Prada Cup from Friday, Team New Zealand are set to get a significant boost in their quest to retain the America’s Cup. Matt Brown reports.

Some last-minute negotiating has seen two days of practice racing – that will include defender Team New Zealand – scheduled for Monday and Tuesday ahead of the start of the Prada Cup challenger series.

Regatta director Iain Murray indicated after last month’s America’s Cup World Series regatta he wanted to stage additional races to allow officials to further test their equipment and race management ahead of the challenger series.

But while that was met by an enthusiastic response from Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling, who faced the prospect of spending the next two months without any competitive racing, it received a lukewarm response from all three challengers – Luna Rossa, American Magic and Ineos Team UK.

However, last week American Magic CEO Terry Hutchinson told the Herald his team would be open to some more practice racing.

“It would be a mistake to close any door,” Hutchinson said. “I think there is as much to gain for the competition out of an efficient race committee, so giving them more time to make the competition better, you would happily support that.”

Hutchinson added there wouldn’t be much motivation for the challengers to give the defender another opportunity to check in.

“But if the decision was made that it’s all or nothing, either you get to run the races but everybody has to be included, then I think we would consider any reasonable offer to it.”

A compromise has clearly been reached and the Herald understands all four teams will have practice races on Monday and Tuesday before the challengers’ boats are officially measured on Wednesday ahead of the Prada Cup opening round robin starting on Friday.

It’s understood the practice races couldn’t be held unless Team New Zealand were included. Each team will have four practice races, news that will no doubt please the Kiwis, who will then spend the next eight weeks going it alone while the challengers compete for the right to challenge for the Auld Mug.

With the one-day Christmas Cup race scrapped on December 20 due to a lack of wind, Team New Zealand only had six races against the challengers and the addition of four more practice races will benefit them.

Sir Ben Ainslie’s Ineos Team UK will also get the chance to see whether the reported improvements in their performance after undergoing a number of changes bear fruit. The British challenger failed to secure a win in the three-day regatta prior to Christmas and have spent days in the shed overhauling Britannia.

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