America's Cup 2021: Coronavirus threat takes wind from Team NZ's sails

One year out from the America's Cup, Team New Zealand's plans are in disarray, due to coronavirus. 

The first of the lead-up world series events is scheduled for Italy next month and their AC75 is being shipped there now. 

But there are fears it could be cancelled altogether, leaving the Kiwis high and dry.

In sailing, traditions are important. So are milestones and 4pm Friday marked exactly one year to go until racing starts in the next America's Cup defence off Auckland. 

Team New Zealand haven't been able to escape that other America's Cup tradition - mind games. 

"Spies were out there today, getting too close," says chief operating officer Kevin Shoebridge. "We've got our people in Cagliari following the teams there."  

Their spies might be there, but their AC75 isn't - it left for the Italian port a month ago. 

But coronavirus is putting the team's best laid plans in jeopardy.  

"All the teams are really keen to be there, but we don't want to put anyone in harm's way," says Shoebridge. "It's out of our hands a little bit, we're controlling what we can control." 

The first of the world series events is due to start April 23 at Cagliari, Italy, which is currently the worst-affected country in Europe.

Shoebridge admits organisers don't have a Plan B, if the event is postponed. 

"We'll just see how things play out over the next few weeks." 

Plans for the America's Cup next March are right on track, flipping the traditionally exclusive event on its head.  

"It's incredibly accessible, so there's no charges for entry," says America's Cup event chairperson Tina Symmans. "All the previous ones have been steep ticket charges, which makes it quite exclusive - none of that for us." 

The foundations for team bases are now complete at Wynyard Quarter, ready for the three challengers to build on. 

Behind the scenes, the Kiwis are working around the clock on the boat that will ultimately fight it out for the Cup. 

And there's been a mindset change for the defenders too.. 

"Because when you're a challenger, you're not really thinking about the event or anything else," says Shoebridge. "So we've taken the mindset that we've got to go and win it - we're not trying to defend it."  

As far as the team's concerned, only one thing matters - steamrolling everyone in their path.