When NZ won the America’s Cup sailing race in 2000 it was a big deal. The nation was celebrating and we hopped on a ferry from Waiheke Island where we lived to downtown Auckland.
Helicopters were swooping overhead and the Auckland harbour was awash in boats of all sizes whizzing around blasting their fog horns with joy.
I’ve wanted to sail on one of the America’s Cup boats since then.
For me, sailing means freedom surrounded only by the ocean, the smell of salt and the sounds of wind beating against the sails and water slapping against the hull.
The photo on the right is slightly distorted as I took it using the panorama mode on my iPhone but it gives you an idea of the dimensions of an America’s Cup boat. The mast is so tall!
Sailing the ultimate speed vessel is a dream come true so I’m feeling rather blessed as I confirm my booking and pick up my boarding pass.
I’m not the only one who’s excited as we motor out of the Viaduct Basin. Some of the other guests are America’s Cup fanatics and have all kinds of good questions. Other people just want to get out on the harbour and have fun.
Adding an engine is one of the few modifications our boat JPN91 has had to take it from sailing star as part of the Nioppon challenge in San Diego in 1995 to commercial tours. The Explore Group who run the America’s Cup tours also use sturdier sails which last longer than those used in America’s Cup races but everything else in the boat is pretty much the same.
In other words there’s nothing on board except the parts that make the boat sail. This isn’t a luxury Auckland harbour cruise. The 25 guests aboard will need to be active participants in the sailing, either working the grinders to hoist the 140kg main sail 108 feet (32m) up the 118 foot (36m) mast or just bracing themselves as the boat heels over.
Sailing under the Auckland harbour bridge with just 2m of clearance for the tall mast is an experience not to be missed as are the views of Auckland city from the water – even on a cloudy day.
It’s overcast and cloudy so the sea isn’t clear blue but the wind is perfect for sailing. It’s as strong as the wind can get for the boat to be sailable. With 22-24 knots of wind in our sails we sail at the edge of the wind and it feels good.
Auckland’s a fun city but the harbour is what makes Auckland really special, dotted as it is with amazing islands, some within easy reach of the city and many farther afield too.
If you’ve only got one day in Auckland then a harbour cruise or day trip to Waiheke Island is a must. The America’s cup sailing experience is by far the most exciting way to enjoy the sights and sounds of Auckland harbour as well as find out how good it would feel to sail an America’s cup boat to victory.
Although I was born in England and still speak the Queen’s English I’m a proud Kiwi so it was a pleasure to be back in New Zealand. If you haven’t been to NZ yet then go now, it’s one of my favourite places in the whole world.
To find out more about the America’s Cup sailing experience in Auckland visit the Explore website.
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