If you’re looking to try something a bit different during your time in Auckland, why not head out into the harbour for some America’s Cup sailing and participate as part of the crew on a genuine America’s Cup yacht?
WHAT IS THE AMERICA’S CUP?
The America’s Cup is a boat race between two teams. A ‘challenger’ team will take on the yacht that currently holds the cup and is aiming to defend the title. First awarded in 1851, the Cup is the oldest awarded trophy in international sport! The first winner of the cup was the schooner ‘America’, which won a race around the Isle of Wight in England, and this is how the competition got its name.
America’s Cup sailing was brought to the public’s attention in New Zealand by one of their national sporting heroes, Peter Blake, who led the country to successive victories in the America’s Cup as well as winning the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race. He was well-known for his major fundraising efforts and for helping put New Zealand on the map when it came to sailing. Famous for wearing lucky red socks, over 100,000 pairs were sold in 1995 – the year that he was on the team that won the America’s Cup. Tragically, he was shot dead by pirates while conducting an environmental exploration trip in the Amazon in 2001.
The America’s Cup sailing experience can be as hands on as you like. If you prefer to sit on the side and observe, that’s fine, but get stuck in and have a go at steering the 80-foot (24-tonne) vessel and you’ll get quite a buzz.
I was asked by one of the crew if I’d been drinking when I gave it a go, which goes to show it isn’t as easy as it looks, especially when you build up speed and the boat begins to lean! All of the crew are very experienced yachtsmen and they will give you all the guidance you need.
The yacht has changed little since its days as a race boat, aside from the addition of a few bits of hand railing, a couple of engines and a more heavy duty material sail. There are two main safety points to bear in mind:
1) The ropes and winches are exactly the same as they were in the yacht’s racing days, meaning that there are a lot of ropes lying around on deck that can be dangerous. Remember not to hang onto them and kick them out of the way if you find them under your feet.
2) The grinding pedestals that control the main sail can spin around and cause damage if you catch any part of your body or loose clothing on them. Remove any cameras hanging around your neck if you have a go on these.
WHAT TO TAKE
You should only take the bare minimum with you on board. Explore NZ provide a locker at the port in which to store any additional items. Wear a waterproof if you’re concerned about getting splashed or the weather looks set to turn. It can get a bit chilly as you race along in the sea breeze so wrap up too.
AMERICA’S CUP SAILING: THE VERDICT
If you’re into sailing, this is a fantastic opportunity to ride in a world-famous yacht and, if you’re feeling brave, perhaps even steer it! Taking to the seas with Explore NZ is also a great way to see Auckland from a different perspective and get a first taste of what sailing is all about if you’re new to it.
It may not be the most adrenaline-fueled activity on offer, but when the boat is racing along on its side, it definitely gets the heart racing. In addition, your ticket gets you free entry to the nearby Maritime Museum, where a fascinating exhibition will teach you all you need to know about the history of navigation through to boat design and a memorial to Peter Blake.
GETTING TO AUCKLAND
Many people arrive in New Zealand via Auckland’s international airport. If you’re already in the country, Intercity Buses provide services to and from the following popular destinations (rough times in brackets): Paihia (4 hours); Hamilton (2 hours); Rotorua (4 hours); Taupo (5 hours); and Wellington (11 hours). See their website for a full list of their services and bus pass options.
I was a guest of Explore NZ. They did not request that I write a favourable review and all of the opinions expressed here are my own.