Former Team New Zealand tactician Brad Butterworth has warned that any postponements to the America's Cup schedule could negatively impact the defending champions.

Like the rest of the sporting world, the America's Cup 2021 preparations have been halted by the coronavirus pandemic, with both World Series regattas in Portsmouth and Cagliari being cancelled.

The regatta cancellations, as well as the postponement of the Olympics to next year, has raised questions about potential competition logjams, delayed preparations and whether the Cup will be forced to be postponed. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website


Butterworth believes postponing the America's Cup – which is due to start in March next year – will be something Team New Zealand would be desperately trying to avoid as it could benefit the challengers.

"I think that they (Team New Zealand) have been hard done by by what's happened," the former America's Cup winning tactician told Radio Sport. "I think they're trying to do the right thing by having the regattas overseas and encourage a bit more participation but they've been hammered because of it."

"It'll be up to the governments if this thing carries on," he added about the prospect of postponing the race for the Auld Mug. "But if it doesn't then the two teams, the defender which is Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa, would have to agree to delay.

"I think it's tough for Team New Zealand anyway. They've got to make a lot of commitments and they're setting up infrastructure here. There's a lot of contracts they've probably gone into to make this all happen.

"I would say they would love to have the regatta on time because I think that they're well prepared and probably the best prepared out of the other teams. It's such a big thing to delay something like that. I think that would fall into the challengers' hands a bit more."

The crew on board Team New Zealand's AC 75 America's Cup yacht Te Aihe. Photo / Supplied
The crew on board Team New Zealand's AC 75 America's Cup yacht Te Aihe. Photo / Supplied

Members of Team New Zealand, like Blair Tuke and Peter Burling, have also been thrust into an unknown situation of potentially having to prepare for both the Olympics and America's Cup.

But with all preparations seemingly put on hold, Butterworth believes Team New Zealand could have the upper hand if the race does go ahead as planned.

"I think that's going to be quite difficult – the unknown when it gets racing especially the challengers. The three of them have got to race each other. Team New Zealand is really strong. Their sailing team is very strong – probably the best in the world really. So it's going to be tough for [the challengers].


"It's not easy to defend because you can't sail in the elimination series for the challengers. So they'll be watching that very closely. But they'll have to do a lot of sailing as soon as they can get that boat back to New Zealand and get going."

2021 America's Cup: World Series regatta in Portsmouth cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic
2021 America's Cup: Stars and Stripes Team USA fail to pay entry fee to contest opening World Series event
2021 America's Cup: Schedule and match conditions confirmed for Auckland event
2021 America's Cup: New York Yacht Club's American Magic releases new footage of test boat capsizing

Butterworth said the challengers, who already looked to be behind Team New Zealand in preparations, could be under added pressure amid the sporting lockdown.

"I think definitely the American team – the New York Yacht Club team – would love to be down here. And they would love to be sailing here in the conditions that they'll probably get. They're at least six weeks away and probably three months away in terms of setting up.

"The others: I think the Italians are under a bit of pressure because their boat keeps breaking and they seem to have problems building the boat; And the English team went to Cagliari and then they've gone back to Portsmouth but their locked down – they don't know where to go or what to do.

"You never know who's going to come out of there and which design package is going to be the fastest. It's a little bit unknown at the end of the day. But if you look at the teams, Team New Zealand has done the most sailing in the full-sized boats out of all the teams by quite a lot. And have been pretty handy at what they've done and achieved.

"They'll like to have more time but they'll always love to have more time … I think that it will be in their interest to race the regatta on time and make sure they challengers if they're falling behind well that's just tough."