Kiwi sailor Blair Tuke has welcomed the strengthened challenge from Luna Rossa in the next America's Cup, with the Italian syndicate announcing the return of Australian Jimmy Spithill.

Spithill returns to the Italian setup after competing in the past two regattas with Oracle Team USA.

With the 2021 regatta likely to be held in Auckland, Tuke told the Herald he thought Spithill's involvement would be good for the event.

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"Kiwis love to hate him. It'll be good I think," Tuke said.

"He's been a big part of the America's Cup for a number of years now. Personality aside, he's a good sailor so that'll be good for that team and he'll take a lot to Luna Rossa."

Spithill competed as part of the Italian syndicate in 2007, but lost to Oracle BMW Racing 5-1 in the Louis Vuitton Cup.

But with Oracle Team USA not expected to be a part of the 2021 regatta in Auckland, Spithill has returned.

Luna Rossa were one of two confirmed challengers, alongside a syndicate from the New York Yacht Club. Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing were also expected to challenge for the cup, while Tuke was hopeful more syndicates might get involved after the class rule was released to teams on Thursday.

"Three very strong challengers, but I'm not sure outside of that. It would be nice to get a couple more teams, but we'll see."

Currently competing in the Volvo Ocean Race, Tuke wouldn't say whether or not he and Olympic partner Peter Burling would be looking to defend their gold medal in Tokyo in 2020, however he hinted that the America's Cup was a high priority for the duo.

"The Olympics is something that's been a massive part of who we are and such a big part of our careers for so long, so it' something we're still very passionate about. To represent New Zealand at the Olympics doesn't come easily and you don't take it for granted.


"They're very different, but to have the America's Cup here and try to defend it would be pretty special too."

New Zealand will play host to the 49er, 49FX and Nacra 17 World Championships late in 2018, which many teams, including New Zealand, expecting to use it for Olympic selection.

Tuke and Burling, who sailed to the gold in the 49er class in 2016, would likely need to sail in the regatta to return to the Olympics, but weren't going to force anything.

"I wouldn't say it's likely," Tuke said, "but it's something we'd love to do – we'd love to, if we can, do the next Olympics but we need to make sure we do it right, we don't want to do it if we can't put in the effort that we think we can do to win a gold medal.

"It's something that still needs to come, we need to sit down with our tight team around us and just talk through whether we can put in that sort of time and if not then we'll have to keep concentrating on the America's Cup – but that all comes after the Volvo."

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