America's Cup 2021: Stars & Stripes may sail Team NZ boat in challenger series

A fourth challenger may yet reach the start-line for next year's America's Cup on Auckland's Waitemata Harbour.

Stars & Stripes haven't built their own AC75, and time and money has run out for them to do so.

But in a dramatic development, Newshub has learned they could get one from the most unlikely of allies.

Team New Zealand's first boat 'Te Aihe' is about as Kiwi as it comes and has looked impressive on the Waitemata Harbour, it may soon be heading for a paint job.

The struggling American team have gone to the independent America's Cup arbitration panel, seeking permission to use a boat built in another country.

Current rules forbid that use, so they need an exemption..

"This has never happened before," says America's Cup historian Tom Ehman. "It's outrageous."

Team NZ are currently building their second boat - the one they'll race to defend the America's Cup.

Ehman says giving up Te Aihe would give them vital insight into how it compares to the other challengers, without having to race them.

On top of that, it would also give the regatta cash and credibility, while infuriating the other three teams - Luna Rossa, American Magic and Ineos Team UK.

"They'll be as mad as hell," says Ehman. "Challengers betraying other challengers."

Team NZ have told Newshub: "Essentially, it's an issue for the challengers to work through.

"Of course, all of New Zealand would welcome a fourth challenger competing in Auckland this summer."

Says Ehman: "I'm calling them Stars & Stripes Team NZ."

A decision could come within six weeks and the outcome may well decide if Team NZ can go back-to-back next March.