It's the oldest trophy in sports, but the America's Cup is again a start-up.
As strange as it might seem for a sporting competition that was first contested in 1851, with the expensive and radical new class of vessel being used, the Cup is again in flux.
For the third time in as many regattas, a new class of yacht is being used, moving from 72-foot catamarans in 2013 and 50-foot catamarans in 2017 to 75-foot foiling monohulls now.
While a sporting event steeped in so much history always has to be finding new ways to adapt and evolve, Prada chief executive Patrizio Bertelli hopes that this class sticks.
"Thanks to the engineers and technicians at both Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand, we were able to come up with this new boat that looks great and, most importantly, it's fantastic to sail and to take out the sea," Bertelli said.
"[But] we have too few teams challenging for the America's Cup."
Bertelli and Prada have had a long-running involvement with the America's Cup; bankrolling syndicates and, this year, not only sponsoring the Italian challenger Luna Rossa, but being the naming rights sponsor for the challenger series.
For the past three regattas, the number of challengers has been low. In San Francisco in 2013, there were only three, in Bermuda in 2017, five challengers competed for the chance to try and dethrone Oracle Team USA. This year, again, only three syndicates have been able to front the necessary funding and manpower to present a challenge.
It's a far cry from the 10 challengers present in 2007, which was sailed in displacement yachts designed under the International America's Cup Class rule, which were all designed to the same formula and had parameters in place for the length and weight, as well as the height of the mast and surface area of the sail.
Now with the addition of advanced technology becoming a big part of sailing the vessels to be used in this year's Prada Cup and the America's Cup, Bertelli said if the same class was used in the future, it would become a more accessible competition.
"This boat was so complex to begin with that it was absolutely not unexpected to see both a limited number of teams have the possibility to adopt the right team of people to work at it.
"This is a start-up; if we keep having the same kind of boat, which I hope will happen, more teams will become involved in the America's Cup in the future."
While only three teams will compete during the Prada Cup, which begins on Friday afternoon, Bertelli was hopeful the display of sailing, with some of the world's best match-racing sailors, would be a showcase for what could be achieved with them and perhaps lend its hand to more challenging syndicates in the years ahead.
"This adventure for these three teams, I see them all on the same level because all three teams have the best possible groups of designers in all specialities of design that have become involved in this project and also the helmsmen; the helmsmen we have here are the top guys in the world for match racing.
"What is really important is I think these boats are going to have different performances under different wind conditions. Some may be very effective in some conditions; others may be more effective in other conditions. We may encounter a lot of surprises along the way."
Heading into the Cup racing?
• Be aware that traffic will be busy, and parking will be very limited.
• Give yourself plenty of time and think about catching a ferry, train or bus instead.
• Make sure your AT HOP card is in your pocket. It's the best way to ride to the Cup.
• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit at.govt.nz/americascup.