A leading sailing pundit has laid out his bold predictions for 2021's America's Cup competitions, including a record-breaking victory to Team New Zealand.
British commentator Magnus Wheatley, posting on his Rule69blog website, believes the America's Cup will be the least competitive of all time with no challenger able to finish within even a minute of the home team.
"Easy one first – Team New Zealand will win the Cup by a record margin. It will be a blackwash and will be 7-0," Wheatley wrote in a lengthy article.
"Quite embarrassing ultimately for the Challenger who won't come close in any race. Margins of victory will range from 1 minute 20 seconds to over 4 minutes."
Wheatley predicts innovation will be the deciding factor in this unprecedented result.
"The world will be amazed at something the Kiwis will do and it will be an innovation in sail design. Backstays will be gone. The jibs will be very different.
"But the big advance will be in the double-skinned mainsail. Unseen control systems will win this Cup."
These predictions will no doubt buoy the spirits of sailing fans in Aotearoa, but his expectations around the future of the event will not - especially those in Parliament and within Auckland City Council who have thrown millions of dollars into its hosting.
"With Covid still present, and the costs coming under intense scrutiny in government, a decision will be made to put the next venue out to tender and will attract a big money bid from Abu Dhabi backed by Dubai.
"The Cup will go to the Middle East in 2025. Money doesn't talk, it screams."
Wheatley also predicts an end to the long and storied reign of Grant Dalton as team boss and the addition of a new honorific to his name.
"Grant Dalton will announce his retirement after the last race saying, 'I've achieved everything in this wonderful sport. I've climbed the mountain enough times now and it's time for the next generation to have their moment.'"
"In the Queen's birthday honours 2021, Dalton will be elevated to 'Sir' Grant Dalton in recognition."
Elsewhere, Wheatley's crystal ball predicts a hotly contested Prada Cup in which the beleaguered Team INEOS will cause major upsets.
"The Challenger series will be tighter than expected. Prada will make all the early running and Francesco Bruni will be the quiet superstar helm, eclipsing Jimmy Spithill.
"The story of the Challenger series will be the resurgence of Team Ineos, shorn of its issues in tacking and gybing, the Brits will take scalps and it will be a thrilling victory in big breeze over Prada that will begin the demise of the Italians.
"American Magic will just take the series having gone through to the final as round robin winner."
The first of Wheatley's long list of predictions will be tested beginning January 15 when the Prada Cup Challengers' Series gets under way off the coast of Tāmaki Makaurau.
Enjoy smooth sailing to the Cup with Auckland Transport
• Avoid traffic congestion and parking niggles and download the AT Mobile app to plot your bus, train or ferry ride to race venues before you leave home.
• 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