America's Cup 2021: Shared honours after opening day would be 'fantastic result' for Luna Rossa, says Brad Butterworth

After an extended period of pre-regatta speculation, Wednesday's opening races of the America's Cup regatta will provide an instant litmus test as to how the Emirates Team NZ and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli match up on the water.

According to former Team NZ great and Luna Rossa consultant Brad Butterworth, all of the pressure is on skipper Peter Burling and his crew to live up to the nation's belief that their superior boat will prove far too strong.

The weight of that expectation and their lack of exposure to the challengers means the opening two races will be the most challenging stage of the series, says Butterworth.

"In every America's Cup, the first few races are the most difficult," Butterworth tells AM Show.

"They'll learn everything in the first couple of races - exactly what the other boat can do and the capability of the other boat."

Butterworth - who won the America's Cup with both Team NZ and Alinghi - believes anything less than a 2-0 advantage to Team NZ at the end of the day's racing would be a huge win for the Italians.

"If it were 1-1 after today it would be a fantastic result for Luna Rossa," he says.

"You saw that Luna Rossa were a couple of knots faster than Team UK, and that didn't show up until right at the end.

"That's the problem Team NZ have, that they haven't been exposed to these other teams."

Butterworth agrees with widespread opinion that Team NZ have the faster boat, which he puts down to the more complex risks it took with the design of their AC75.

But with those design risks comes a much smaller margin for error.

"I think [Team NZ] have the faster boat because it's more extreme in every way," he notes.

"If you look at the boats, they're difficult to sail anyway, and Team NZ's boat is more extreme than Luna Rossa's boat, making it more difficult to sail.

"You could see the boat capsize in this regatta."

The 61-year-old has complete faith that a sailor of Burling's pedigree will be able to tow that fine line and extract peak performance from 'Te Rehutai', although he warns not to write off talented Luna Rossa co-helmsman Francesco Bruni.

"Burling is one of the best sailors in the world, but so is Bruni," says Butterworth.

"You get to this level and they're pretty close, all of these guys - and they want to show their skills.

"You don't want to have a whitewash of 7-0, which it could be. But I think Bruni has been exceptional in the way he's come through this regatta."

The weather forecast seems likely to favour Team NZ, with stronger winds predicted.

Join us for live updates of the first two America's Cup races from 4pm