America's Cup 2021: Sir Ben Ainslie prepares to hit Kiwi waters to take on Team New Zealand

INEOS Team UK skipper Sir Ben Ainslie shakes his head, as he reflects on the global turmoil that has thrown countless spanners into the works of his team's America's Cup preparations.

The 43-year-old English sailing great says COVID-19 has thrown up plenty of extra obstacles.

But, all things considered, Sir Ben is proud of the progress they've made, as his teammates begin the trek downunder to challenge for the Auld Mug.

"The America's Cup is really about dealing with the unexpected," Sir Ben tells Newshub. "But this has certainly been one of the more bizarre Cups I've been involved with.

"When you throw in the new class of boat and the complexities of that, and then the COVID-19 crisis, it's been nuts really... but that's part of the challenge.

"There's always going to be something that gets thrown in there that can derail you… it's about rising to the challenge."

As far as Sir Ben is concerned, it all comes with the territory, insisting their focus remains on getting their second and primary racing boat - as well as their crew - primed and ready on Auckland waters.

"Meanwhile, the team, through different phases, are relocating down to Auckland as well and going through those challenges at the quarantine," says the four-time Olympic gold medallist.

"But they're coming out the other side and getting set up at our new space down at the Viaduct, so it's an exciting time for the team."

The INEOS Team decided to remain home through the peak of the UK lockdown, a decision Sir Ben says has paid dividends.

"We had one of the best summers of sailing I've ever had on UK waters," he says. "We got a lot of testing done and ticked off all of our priorities list, and most importantly, managed to finish the fit-out of boat two.

"That's absolutely key to the campaign - getting that down to Auckland on time and ready to go. It will be key to our warm-up and ultimate result."

Their first true test will come at the America's Cup World Series in December, where the challengers will pit their second AC75 boats against each other in full racing conditions.

"That will be a pivotal moment for this Cup, as the boats line up for the first time," says Sir Ben.

"We're not far from being up and running down in Auckland, and getting out on the water there against the other teams. That's when we'll really start realising how successful our designs are."

Sir Ben is under no illusion over the daunting prospect of defeating the holders in Aotearoa.

"Team New Zealand on home waters, it doesn't get any tougher than that," he says.

"It's going to be bloody tough to beat."

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