America's Cup challengers are "running scared" according to a veteran sailing commentator after reports emerged of US syndicate Stars + Stripes' intentions to use Team New Zealand's first boat to compete in the Prada Cup challenger series.
The struggling American team – who have run out of time and money to build their own AC75 – are seeking permission from the America's Cup independent arbitration panel to use a boat built in another country and take over Team NZ's 'Te Aihe', MediaWorks reports.
However, Stars + Stripes will have to convince the panel and current challengers Luna Rossa, American Magic and Ineos Team UK to receive an exemption to bend the rules, which forbid the use of a boat built in another country.
Team NZ would welcome another challenger, which would be a financial boost for the regatta and Auckland's viaduct.
But getting challengers and the arbitration panel to agree to an exemption – Stars + Stripes have already missed several previous deadlines – will likely be difficult, with the three current challengers reportedly angered by the move.
Sail World editor Richard Gladwell suggested the challengers were "scared" and not thinking about what's best for the America's Cup.
"If you look at what's best for the Cup, it's certainly good for that," Gladwell told MediaWorks.
"The other guys might just have to get over themselves … [Stars + Stripes] have read the rules a bit better than the others.
"The challengers will dress it up and say it's a huge advantage for Team New Zealand and they're just putting their own fox in the challenger hen house.
"They're scared of these guys coming out in a Team New Zealand hand me down and they might 'beat us in the cup'."
The Cup rookies out of the Long Beach Yacht Club in southern California previously bought a design package from Team NZ but financial struggles have left their boat only half built.
While Te Aihe is unlikely to be as competitive given the significant developments teams are making to their second generation AC75s, some believe an exemption would infuriate the other challengers and give Stars + Stripes vital insight into where they stand compared to the other three teams without having to race them.
The US syndicate insist their challenge is still alive and last week released a video teasing their involvement.
Meanwhile, the New York Yacht Club's American Magic has become the first challenger to sail on New Zealand waters ahead of next year's Cup.
American Magic sailed its foiling 75-foot monohull Defiant for nearly seven hours on Waitemata Harbour yesterday. It was the first time the crew sailed the boat since March 3 in Pensacola, Florida.
"We had a great day. It was nice to go sailing," skipper and executive director Terry Hutchinson said. "I've got no complaints. It was really good."