Thousands have turned out on land and on water, and millions have watched from their screens, to capture the start of the 36th America’s Cup presented by Prada this week in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.
From the opening of the Race Village on Tuesday to Emirates Team New Zealand’s World Series win on Saturday, Auckland has come to life following a three year wait to defend the Cup on home shores.
On Saturday, Emirates Team New Zealand claimed the Prada America’s Cup World Series Auckland after beating Team Luna Rossa by 16 seconds. While Sunday's sailing did not produce a winner of the Prada Christmas Race, the crowds still turned out to make the most of the festive atmosphere around the region.
The America’s Cup Race Village, which was blessed by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei in an opening ceremony earlier in the week, proved a popular drawcard for Aucklanders and visitors.
The Village featured big screens magnifying the thrill of the racing, daily pre-race shows with the sailors on the main stage, and fans being able to try their hand at the AC75 simulators.
Mayor Phil Goff said the event has focused international attention on Auckland.
“With the sun shining and with no community transmission of COVID-19 currently, Auckland will have looked like a great place to be for people in other parts of the world, and we look forward to welcoming them back as soon as possible.
“In the meantime, the races have attracted tens of thousands of punters from across Auckland and New Zealand to the heart of our city, with a real buzz around the waterfront.
“Auckland is the place to be this summer and at the heart of it is the America’s Cup. Thanks to the efforts that Aucklanders and our fellow Kiwis have made this year, we are able to enjoy this occasion and everything else that’s planned for the upcoming months, including Summernova, Tāmaki Herenga Waka Festival, the Auckland Lantern Festival and the Pasifika Festival.”
The three days of the Prada America’s Cup World Series Auckland saw action unfold on racecourses B and C, with Course A used for Sunday's sailing, albeit without enough wind to finish the regatta.
Auckland Transport Harbourmaster Andrew Hayton says: “The majority of spectator vessels have behaved impeccably. There’s always the odd one or two who need a bit more direction, but the majority have cooperated throughout to help the event take place safely and successfully.
“The success of these regattas depend on the cooperation of spectators, and their behaviour has allowed us to have three days of great racing, and despite the wind not playing ball today they were still in good spirits and remained patient while they waited to see if racing would resume.”
On land spectators were able to catch the sailing from vantage points including Maungauika North Head and Takapuna Beach Reserve, which hosted events as part of the Summernova Festival series.
Aotea Square was also the backdrop for the Auckland Live Summer in the Square that offered live viewing of all the races and entertainment for the whole family.
Steve Armitage, General Manager Destination at Auckland Unlimited, said: “It’s great to see three years of planning with our event partners culminate in such a magnificent first event which has showcased Auckland and New Zealand to the world.
“The early interest and participation have been incredibly positive, with a celebratory atmosphere in the village and the surrounding Viaduct Basin, as well as at the vantage points around the Hauraki Gulf,” he said.
“A huge thank you to our fantastic group of City Skipper volunteers for the important role they played in support of the events across the region.”
There is plenty more to come with the PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series from 15 January to 22 February when challengers American Magic, INEOS Team UK and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli will face off in a series of round-robin racing.
The winner will compete against Emirates Team New Zealand for the main event - the 36th America’s Cup Match beginning 6 March.