America’s Cup 2021: Team New Zealand could opt for two helmsmen with new boat

Kiwi sailing legend Brad Butterworth predicts Team New Zealand will opt for two helmsmen, when they defend the America's Cup in March 2021.

Team New Zealand's second boat is radically different from their first and came as a bit of a shock to onlookers, but Butterworth thinks the biggest shock is yet to come.

"The new boat looks like they might have two helmsmen, where they'll have dedicated helmsmen on side to side, which is something Luna Rossa are doing at the moment," he says. 

Butterworth was both impressed and surprised at the defenders' second boat, Te Rehutai.

The four-time America's Cup winner, now overseeing the 2021 challenger series, knows a thing or two about sailing, so when he saw Te Rehutai in the flesh, he was impressed to say the least.

"I would say the challengers are pretty worried about what they saw," Butterworth says. 

While it was hard to see any evidence of it today, he believes Team New Zealand's set-up means the helmsman will find it difficult to change sides, so having a dedicated driver on each side makes sense. 

"That's what the challengers have been talking about since they've seen the boat," says Butterworth. 

If that's the case, the big question is who would drive alongside current helmsman Peter Burling. 

"Well, they are spoilt for choice there," Butterworth says.  

Skipper Glenn Ashby is one option, but the other is Burling's 49er teammate Blair Tuke.

"He [Blair] is probably looking and thinking he can do it too, and he probably can," Butterworth says.

Butterworth thinks such high-quality sailors on the boat and the radical new design have Team New Zealand as favourites so far.

"I don’t want to put the kiss of death on them, but certainly I would say they're the form horse," he says.

We'll find out for sure, when the Christmas Regatta gets underway in less than four weeks.