'Brought the country together': Thousands of Kiwis cheer as Team NZ sails to victory

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 17 Mar 2021, 8:18PM
Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling was surrounded by adoring fans as he made his way to the America's Cup trophy presentation. Photo / Dean Purcell
Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling was surrounded by adoring fans as he made his way to the America's Cup trophy presentation. Photo / Dean Purcell

'Brought the country together': Thousands of Kiwis cheer as Team NZ sails to victory

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 17 Mar 2021, 8:18PM

Jubilant scenes erupted across Auckland's waterfront as Emirates Team New Zealand won their seventh race to secure the America's Cup this afternoon.

Thousands poured into the America's Cup Village hours before the first race was set to start at 4.15pm, with the Kiwis leading six races to three - needing just one more to win the Auld Mug. At its peak, 40,000 Kiwis were in the village and 1600 spectator boats were out on the water.

Crowds grew so large, fans were told to stay away as congestion emerged across the Viaduct.

All the tension Kiwis had felt across the racing burst forth into scenes of joy and elation as Team New Zealand cross the finish line. Photo / Michael Craig

All the tension Kiwis had felt across the racing burst forth into scenes of joy and elation as Team New Zealand cross the finish line. Photo / Michael Craig

Despite the sweltering heat, the joy and tension was palpable among the fans packed in front of big screens. The decision to postpone the first race prompted a large groan from the vocal crowd, but their disappointment soon turned to elation as the race got underway at 4.45pm.

Nearly every tack and jibe was greeted by applause as Team New Zealand pulled ahead. As they crossed the finish line, the crowds erupted into cheers, knowing the ghosts of San Francisco had not returned.

Through the win, Team New Zealand and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron become the first team and yacht squadron to successfully challenge for and defend the America's Cup.

"It's a huge amount of relief," Lynfield's David Hart said, alongside his two kids, 9-year-old Peter and 7-year-old Gloria.

"I really hope the team and the country take a leaf out of the Italians' book and really celebrate this because this is not a moment for tall poppy syndrome, this a moment for celebrating an awesome design team and an awesome sailing team."

With the location of Team New Zealand's next defence unconfirmed, Hart hoped sufficient financial support would be given to ensure it was held on New Zealand shores.

Daniel Chen, with family Mina and Henoch, was blown away by his first day watching live sailing at the Viaduct.

"I think you can feel the spirit at the [winning] moment and everyone's yelling and you really feel the New Zealand people are one team supporting."

Team New Zealand lift the Auld Mug again. Photo / Getty ImagesTeam New Zealand lift the Auld Mug again. Photo / Getty Images

Peter Reece, a Kiwi boatbuilder who lived in the United States, said his stay in managed isolation was well worth being able to see Team New Zealand keep the Auld Mug.

"It's brought the country together, I think it's as big for me as the Rugby World Cup."

Jayne Muir-James said the atmosphere and results of today's race has converted her into an America's Cup fan.

"[Jimmy] Spithill put up a good fight but it just wasn't their day," she said.

"[I'm] excited, really good race, great atmosphere everywhere."

Todd Vaele took the day off work to be at the waterfront for today's racing - and said he felt "awesome" after Team NZ's win. He said they would stay out at Auckland's waterfront for the whole night to celebrate.

"[It's] awesome, we are champions. We have the best sailing in the world. That's why they call us the City of Sails."

As soon as the race ended, hundreds stormed the area behind the event's centre, eager to see the sailors come in. The crowd erupted with cheers, whistles, and applause as Te Rehutai approached the very crowded dock.

The crew aboard Te Rehutai pay homage to their committed fans. Photo / Photosport

The crew aboard Te Rehutai pay homage to their committed fans. Photo / Photosport

A celebratory fireworks display was planned for later today. However, the long-held tradition of a ticker-tape parade would not be continued following the win.

Team New Zealand had requested of Auckland Council that there be no official parade, which was granted.

After previous wins, the victorious crew has taken the Auld Mug through the central streets. The decision was made on the basis that everyone had been through a tough year and Team New Zealand didn't want to put any further costs on to the host city or ratepayers.

text by Julia Gabel and Adam Pearse, NZ Herald