America's Cup: Isle of Wight 'Auld Mug' defence would be 'game-changer' - Sir Ben Ainslie

Taking the America's Cup back to where it all began would be a game-changing event, according to Sir Ben Ainslie.

The multi-time Olympic sailing gold medallist heads INEOS Team UK - the new Challenger of Record to the 'Auld Mug'.

The Brits were confirmed in the role last week, days after Emirates Team NZ completed a 7-3 victory over Italian syndicate Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli to retain the trophy. 

Immediately, speculation suggested a one-off Deed of Gift race between TNZ and Team UK, to be staged in the Isle of Wight next year, before a full regatta back in Auckland in 2024.

In his Telegraph column, Ainslie says bringing a Cup race to Britain would reinvigorate interest in the oldest trophy in sports.

"All I can say is we would be delighted if New Zealand did want to bring the Cup to Britain," he writes. 

"It would be an incredible opportunity to build on the momentum coming out of this Cup, give the country something big to shout about coming out of COVID, give New Zealand the chance to raise commercial revenue and all the other teams the chance to regroup.

"Ultimately, though, New Zealand are a commercially driven team. They have to look at all options on the table."

With new rules set in stone for the next two regattas, Ainslie believes the future of the event is shaping up nicely.

With regulations limiting teams to just one boat, the continuing development of the AC75 for at least the next two events, a tightening of eligibility rules and a cut in set-up costs, the Team UK skipper believes several new challengers could be NZ-bound in 2024. 

"I would hope to see at least six teams in the next Cup and we should be targeting as many as 10."

Ainslie says his team are committed to at least the next two Cup events, thanks to the continued backing of British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

With the window narrowing quickly on foreign sailors and off-shore crew potentially jumping ship, Ainslie says the pressure is on to retain and recruit.

"This period in the Cup is a little bit like the transfer window in the Premier League - you’ve got the talent out there on the market to a certain extent. You’ve got to move quickly to try to secure the people you want.

"We’re in a much better position now than four years ago. It is true that no Challenger of Record has ever actually won the Cup and there is an argument to say that being COR can be a distraction - that it takes away focus from what you should be doing.

"Fortunately, I'm not superstitious and I would say, if you’re well-structured and you have a good relationship with the defender, which we do, we should be able to make it work to our advantage."