Ben Ainslie has cast further doubt over the three late America's Cup entries making the start line, and the Ineos Team UK skipper also suggests construction complications have delayed the arrival of his team in Auckland.

Nothing is ever straightforward when it comes to the world's oldest sporting trophy. This time around, backroom squabbling appears to have started early.

Ineos Team UK, like all main rivals, are preparing their well-backed bid to challenge Emirates Team New Zealand for the Auld Mug in 2021.

As they continue the design and testing stage at their Portsmouth base, Ainslie has revealed, in a wide-ranging interview with the Herald, the behind-the-scenes jostling since Malta Altus, DutchSail and Stars and Stripes from California were three late additions to the challengers.


"Firstly we were welcoming having more teams and more competition. We did have an issue with those three teams, two of which to our understanding hadn't paid any entry fee [$5.8million]," Ainslie, the four-time Olympic champion, said.

"Stars and Stripes had paid entry and as far as we could see were properly entered but the other two teams hadn't, and were then put forward to have a vote on class rule amendments and so on.

"For us, that seemed completely unfair. Imagine in Formula 1 if you had some guys rock up and say we fancy a punt at this but we don't like the diffuser or we want different tyres… there's no way that would happen.

"We were really frustrated by that because it was holding things up. We couldn't make decisions because the other teams weren't agreeing to vote or were voting against and you need a unanimous decision."

INEOS Team UK skippered by Sir Ben Ainslie in the Extreme Sailing Series. Photo / Getty
INEOS Team UK skippered by Sir Ben Ainslie in the Extreme Sailing Series. Photo / Getty

In the end Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa, challenger of record, altered the protocol in order to make rule changes without approval from the late entry teams, allowing project plans to proceed.

Ultimately, Ainslie expects costs to be too prohibitive for the late syndicates to join Luna Rossa, New York-based American Magic and Team UK in challenging Team New Zealand on home waters.

"We don't expect those teams to get to the start line. Stars and Stripes, our understanding is it's really shaky. We'd love to see them all there but the reality is the costs of this Cup are dawning on them just how expensive it is.

"They made the initial jump but are now pulling back because it's way more expensive than what they've been told.


"Hopefully those other teams make it but I'd be surprised to see all three of them there for sure."

After initially planning to be based in Auckland later this year, Ainslie says his team has now been forced to play the waiting game due to construction issues with their site.

"We would have liked to go to New Zealand earlier but it has been a struggle getting the leases on the bases. We still don't have a lease, as it stands.

"There's some problems with some piping that's going in which is between the base and the dock front. This is integral to being able to operate boats in and out of the water.

"We don't think that'll be ready until next January so that's making it problematic to being in New Zealand earlier.

"We probably would have gone out this coming [UK] winter to get some familiarisation time.

"That's a frustration, and a shame for Auckland not having the teams down their earlier but it's out of our hands."

However, Iain Simmons, project director for the Wynyard Edge Alliance, the organisation formed to deliver the infrastructure with a $250 million price tag for the America's Cup, rejected Ainslie's claims.

In a statement, Simmons said the America's Cup Events and the Alliance had worked closely with all the syndicates, and that arrangements had been made to accommodate Ineos' design requirements and provide access to its base building platform by the end of this month.

"The timeframes with regard to the works with piping and docks have not been delayed and have not changed from the original target," Simmons said. "In fact best endeavours are to deliver these works in advance of the initial handover dates for the teams."