French sailing identity Bruno Troublé has dimissed the proposed America's Cup defence at the Isle of Wight as "a bit of a joke", instead tipping another Auckland regatta as early as next year.
Best known as the frontman for America's Cup media conferences, the former Olympic sailor is credited with creating the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger series, when he helmed France 3 at Newport 1983.
In an interview with French sailing website Tip & Shaft, Troublé insists the one-off British challenge from INEOS Team UK is part of a "game of poker" to help Emirates Team NZ prise funding from the NZ Government.
The Isle of Wight is the birthplace of the America's Cup, which was created after the New York Yacht Club beat British opponents in an annual race around the island in 1851.
"I had [Team NZ boss Grant Dalton] on the phone again yesterday," says Troublé. "He told me there were a lot of options, but that wasn't the one he favours.
"If fact, it is all a game of poker to get the NZ Government to pay up, which explains why Team New Zealand, who are losing Emirates as their sponsor, are threatening to hold the Cup abroad.
"The most likely outcome is a post-COVID America's Cup organised quickly in November 2022, here in Auckland, with the present teams, so they don't get taken apart.
"That's also why the New Zealanders spoke so soon about tightening up the nationality rule. They want to avoid a ploy like Bertarelli used and which harmed them so much."
In 2000, Swiss businessman Ernesto Bertarelli founded Team Alinghi, and lured key Team NZ members - notably skipper Russell Coutts and tactician Brad Butterworth - for a successful challenge three years later.
"I'm fighting hard now so that the eight existing boats can be used by the new teams, which would mean doing away with the rule concerning the place of construction for the boat, which in my opinion, serves no purpose now," says Troublé. "If we did that, the boats could be used by the new teams."
Troublé hopes to have eight challenging teams for the next regatta, but reveals Prada will not continue as sponsor of that series, because "things didn't go well with the New Zealanders".
The challenger series reached its climax as Auckland closed down under COVID-19 Alert Level 3 - challengers wanted to resume racing at Level 2, but America's Cup Events organisers insisted it be delayed until Level 1, when spectators could return to the Cup village.
Prada sponsored both the challenger series and the Luna Rossa Prada Parelli team, and Troublé admits that relationship was fraught.
"That can't work, as it is a rotten set-up," he tells Tip & Shaft. "I saw that every day here and it was very difficult.
"The secret of the long-lasting partnership with Louis Vuitton is that we never backed a team, even though we had many opportunities.
"For things to go well, the future sponsor needs to be separate from the teams."