Auckland – sailing
My trip to New Zealand was to see family. Apart from that I was unplanned, although I did have one idea – to go for a sail on an America’s Cup yacht.
In the end it never worked out, but I did come close, close enough to almost touch one of the race’s greats.
The meeting happened beside Auckland’s marinas that jut out into Waitematā Harbour.
I visited the area on a blustery day, and came across a race champion – NZL 60 – sitting in a cradle outside the Emirates Team New Zealand base. Winner of the 30th America’s Cup in 2000, the boat seemed barely alive without water and sails, but just the shape of its hull was enough to see how it would have sliced through the sea like a scalpel.
Last year’s races, over two decades since NZL 60’s victory, show how things have changed. Now the yachts, part machine, part sailfish, lift right up off the water, with a foil to either side, extending like a limb to balance. The masts have stiff, double-skinned sails, and the crews wear helmets and headphones, spending each race with their arms spinning to provide the power for the great hybrids.
New Zealand has won four America’s Cups. The first time was in 1995. The second in 2000, when NZL 60 defended the trophy. The third in 2017, and then again last year, 2021, when the contest took place in Waitematā Harbour.
The marinas in the Viaduct Basin, and the developments along the waterfront, give a sense of New Zealand’s investment in boats of all kinds, and in the race itself.
The area looked immaculate when I visited. The wind and rain had polished it clean, sharpening the light over the marinas, and bouncing off those taking their chances out towards Devonport and Harbour Bridge.
Everything gleamed as the rain showers gave way to flashes of sunshine.
Even the buildings had a fresh shine.
The wall mounting below was outside an entrance to one of the new hotels.
I followed the wide pedestrianised area, around the silos and modernised warehouses in the Wynyard Quarter, then turned back towards the business centre of the city and took the photograph below.
By the time a fresh burst of rain came in I was on Hobson’s Wharf, by the Maritime Museum. I bought a ticket and went inside, thankful to be dry.
The museum was filled with examples of the different types of vessels that have, or might have, reached New Zealand over the years. The first arrivals, from other islands in the Pacific, came across in craft that look so vulnerable compared to those of the traders and settlers who arrived centuries later.
The photograph above is of the Sema Makawa – a small example of a Fijian drua, that could be up to 30m long and carry 200 warriors.
On the way out of the museum I visited the section on the America’s Cup
There were displays about the various yachts, and tributes to Sir Peter Blake, one of New Zealand’s greatest sailors.
As I stood there, surrounded by maritime history, and on the edge of the Pacific, it was easy to understand why the country still pays such successful attention to sailing and the sea.
The footage below explains some of the thinking behind the latest America’s Cup boats.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2022
Really fascinating Georgie. I am a very keen sailor and it must have been amazing to see one of these incredible America Cup yachts at such close range. They really do fascinate me. We had a race in Plymouth Sound once, and I was in the harbour on a boat to watch it. The speed and agility of these ingenious machines is quite overwhelming and highly exciting. I am very envious you saw one out of the water.
I have always wanted to visit New Zealand. I have been to Australia twice, spending 6 months working there in 1987. I have been told that it has a completely different flavour to Australia and I can imagine why. One of my neighbours told me in quite an uninspiring conversation that it was just like Wales! So no need to go that far. I have always been quite disappointed they would think such a thing, and am absolutely sure they must be wrong! I would be fascinated to see the incredible wildlife, mountains and the cultural Kiwi culture. What a wonderful trip. I look forward to hearing much more!
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Hi Glynis – so glad you found this post. I know how much you love to sail. Unfortunately I never got to see the yachts racing, just the hulls that were out of the water. The racing took place the year before I arrived, but there were plenty of reminders. It is incredible how the yachts operate now. My big hope is that their mastery of wind power will progress us all towards cleaner transport. As for New Zealand, I only saw parts of North Island, and the bits I saw were not as wild as I expected, but then South Island, which I never saw, is the place of high peaks and colder weather. I haven’t been to Australia yet. Six months working there must be a good way to see at least some of it.