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Team New Zealand the lone boat on the water as challengers do a no-show

Is it a sign the race is over before it's even begun, or is it the great game of foxing in the America's cup?

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The three challenging syndicates all withdrew from the first full day of official practice racing. Source: 1 NEWS

Today was meant to be the first full day of official practice racing, but all three challengers were hiding away in their sheds, with just team New Zealand on the water.

The reasons behind the challenger’s decision to keep their boats dry today is unknown. However, sailing commentator Chris Steele says it’s likely due to a last gasp effort to get their boats up to speed before the Christmas regatta.

“If you're not within 20 to 30 seconds plus, it's probably not a good sign. So yeah, I think like I said, very much a case of trying to get the boat away and make some modifications before next week when they line up for the first official racing,” Steele said.

When it comes to the challengers' no-show, there are two schools of thought in America's Cup quarters — the challengers are either spooked by what the holders are showing, or they're holding something back.

Fellow America's Cup expert Richard Gladwell believes if any team has something to hold back it is Team New Zealand.

"I mean they think they're showing team New Zealand secrets? Well, I think Team New Zealand's got a lot more to offer in terms of what the challengers have in terms of secrecy."

With the lack of company out on the water, Team New Zealand were forced to use their very own chase boat as a shadow challenger, meaning today’s practice session was no Sunday stroll.

“They're opposed with a chase boat so you know they've got opposition in there. It's not as if you're just sailing around the course and kissing your sister. And it was a lot tougher than what we saw with the challengers out there the last two days,” Gladwell said.

Steele says that although it’s just over a month until the Prada Cup kicks off, the challengers will have ample time to get their boats ready.

“A lot can change in a week if they've got the equipment,” he said.

“All of these guys would've been spending thousands of hours in the simulators developing new technology to try and make these boats go faster and a lot of those items will be in the build process right now.

“So things like new foils will be coming out, new sails, which will add up to massive gains around the racetrack. So we haven't seen it all for sure. There's definitely going to be a lot more to come.