Hamilton (Bermuda) (AFP)

Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill isn't waiting for the opening race of 35th America's Cup to launch his game of cat-and-mouse with Emirates Team New Zealand.

Spithill, the pugnacious Australian who is seeking to take Team USA to a third straight America's Cup crown in the first-to-seven match that starts on Bermuda's Great Sound on Saturday, showed his skill in the verbal pre-start on Friday as he dodged questions about reports that the defenders could be prepared to launch a second boat.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Spithill said, all mock innocence when asked about New Zealand media reports that two bow sections had been seen being carried from the Americans' base to that of SoftBank Team Japan, the vanquished would-be challenger with whom the USA have had a close working relationship.

The sighting begged the question of whether the US team were putting together a second boat or merely trying to rattle their rivals -- who are out to expunge the memory of their spectacular collapse from an 8-1 lead in the title series in San Francisco four years ago.

"I think it just shows you guys will fall for anything," the 37-year-old Spithill said, hinting it was all a ploy. "It was no coincidence that we saw the Kiwi spy boat out there -- I just can't believe you guys fell for it again."

But asked point blank if Team USA have a second boat, Spithill would neither confirm nor deny.

"You're just going to have to wait and see," Spithill said, adding: "Listen, we've got our race boat. That's what we're planning to race.

"It's a very, very competitive boat, guys have done a lot of work, a lot of upgrading on it and we feel we'll be competitive."

The defenders have already had a chance to show just how competitive they are.

Before sitting out the challenger semi-finals and final, they topped the round-robin qualifying standings to earn a valuable bonus point that they take into the America's Cup proper.

During that round-robin, they beat New Zealand twice.

But Emirates Team New Zealand's young helmsman Peter Burling was as phlegmatic as ever on the eve of the Cup.

After posing for pictures with Spithill alongside the coveted silver cup -- unpacked from its Louis Vuitton trunk in the Bermuda sunshine by white-gloved guards -- the 26-year-old Kiwi said he wouldn't be drawn into any mind games.

"I was just kind of taking it easy," Burling said of his approach to the pre-Cup press conference.

"We're more worried about the boat -- how to make the boat quicker, how to get around the track quicker.

"If you stop thinking about that, that's where you go wrong."

Agence France-Presse

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