America's Cup 2021: COVID-19 sinks Auckland fan experience as Kiwis avoid City of Sails

The latest Level 3 lockdowns are putting people off travelling to Auckland for the America's Cup final showdown. 

The event has already been scaled back, with borders closed to international tourists, but now Level 2 restrictions threaten it even further. 

An event that was billed as the biggest country this year, now has a sense of anti-climax just 48-hours out from the start.

COVID-19 may be losing the war against New Zealand, but it's won a big battle over the America's Cup and it's fan experience.

"This was the time we were expecting to welcome the world and their wallets into the city and we were hoping to capat1alise on a world-class event," says Auckland Unlimited's Steve Armitage.  

Early expectations were that it could bring up to a billion dollars into the economy, but they'll be lucky to make a fraction of that.

And the latest lockdowns have made things even worse - now Kiwis from outside Auckland aren't keen to join the party.

"The fact that Auckland now has a continual period where we've had to go into lockdown it starts to create a perception in people's minds of not wanting to come into Auckland and be here."  

On top of that, Level 2 restrictions have played havoc with the event that was meant to be packed out, with up to 20,000 fans at the Cup Village.

And to make sure crowds don't congregate at the best viewing points around The City of Sails, the closest courses to shore will not be used until Auckland is back at Alert Level 1.

So Course A off the East Coast Bays will likely be used on Wednesday, with north-west winds around 15 knots forecast.

"It's a shame obviously we haven't been able to roll into a big huge event," says Team New Zealand sailing coach Ray Davies. 

All the speculation surrounds Team New Zealand blowing Luna Rossa out of the water in seven races - great if you're a Kiwi fan, but racing could be over within four days - after four years of build-up. 

"They look pretty good eh so I think they'll be hell of tough to beat - they look very quick - faster - another generation faster," says America's Cup great Brad Butterworth. 

But Team New Zealand's not buying into any of that scuttlebutt.

"That's the exciting thing about this format is not really knowing until day one. So that's added to the buzz," says Davies.

And just for good measure, Sir Peter Blake's lucky red socks are back.

A good omen on the water, while off it, the event at this stage, looks like it could be a bit of a wash-out.