Team New Zealand, who retained the America’s Cup by defeating Italian challengers Luna Rossa 7-3 in Auckland harbour this week, are understood to be considering a radical proposal for the next defence involving a single-challenger match against Ineos Team UK next year.
Ineos Team UK owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe, whose company funded the 2019 event in Vienna that saw Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge become the first man to cover the marathon distance in less than two hours, wants the two-time winners to forego the traditional course and contest the Cup again off the Isle of Wight.
That would return the cup to its original home, where the Americans won the first regatta against Britain in 1851.
In the wake of the successful defence of the “Auld Mug” by the defending crew, the New Zealand Government committed NZD5 million (£2.6 million/$3.6 million/€3 million) of funding towards the next America’s Cup defence, which would ordinarily be due to take place in New Zealand in 2024.
But there are suggestions that Ineos may steal a march on the New Zealand authorities.
Speaking to Newstalk ZB, former America’s Cup winner Brad Butterworth confirmed he had heard the stories.
“There’s some bizarre stuff going on,” Butterworth said.
“The ball’s always bouncing in the America’s Cup.
“They are talking about Ineos, I guess, would be funding the whole thing.
“Both teams would go to the Isle of Wight and do an America’s Cup like it was 200 years ago.”
New Zealand’s Government has until June to negotiate a deal with the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Team New Zealand to keep the next challenger series in the country.
The Minister responsible for the America’s Cup, Stuart Nash, told Newstalk ZB that the Government would “love to be back for more” but economic factors could determine the final outcome.
“I would like to see this held in New Zealand next time but, again, we’ve got three months to sit down and negotiate that and see what it looks like,” said Nash.
“It would be disappointing to see it head off shore but the economic reality may mean in this COVID time that the Government hasn’t got the money to stump up and hold it.”
“The billionaires are circling thinking our own Team New Zealand probably, on paper, are vulnerable,” former America’s Cup sailor Dan Slater added to Newstalk ZB.