I was only joking way back in 2017 when I suggested that a foiling monohull would be a good idea…
New Zealand had just won the 35th Americas Cup regatta in the AC45 Catamarans. The speeds those foiling yachts could achieve were almost incomprehensible.
While out sailing in our June winter series racing at Naval Point Club in Lyttelton, we joked about how funny it would be to see a Young 88 foiling around the harbour. After a few too many of Naomi’s famous mulled wines we thought we’d give it a go as you can see from the picture above…
When it was announced soon after that photo was taken that the 2021 Americas Cup would actually be sailed in foiling monohulls, I had to check the date to make sure it wasn’t an April fools day joke. I am sure it wasn’t only me who wondered just how on earth that would work?
When the initial designs were released the boat looked like something we’d never even seen before. I must admit to still being a bit sceptical about how it would all actually be achieved in real life until the first boat was launched and started flying around the harbour. What we’d joked about back in 2017 was actually a reality. I was blown away.
I’ve been a big fan of the Americas Cup since New Zealand’s first entry in to the regatta way back in 1986. It has been a long bumpy emotional road, and at one stage my obsession with the cup nearly made me lose my job! So it goes without saying that with the 2021 Regatta being held right here in New Zealand, I just had to be a part of it all.
Way back about 18 months ago, my friend Victoria and I started making plans on how might be the best way to watch. We discussed sailing our own boats up to Auckland, Vic on High Voltage, me on Wildwood, along with friends on their boats. We quickly decided that we didn’t really have the time amongst all the other logistics to make that happen. So we started looking at charter boats.
We found some great boat options but then COVID came along, the New Zealand border closed, and with the charter company wanting deposits, and uncertainty as to whether the regatta would even go ahead, friends unsure if they wanted to commit it was all starting to get a bit complicated.
But Vic and I aren’t ones to be dissuaded so easily! We pressed on, paid the initial deposit, pressured everyone in to booking their flights as soon as they came online, crossed every finger and toe hoping that nothing would come along to disrupt our plans. Organised accommodation, catering, airport transfers, convinced 35 of our friends that they should come with us too. Things all fell nicely in to place.
Until there was a magnitude 8.1 offshore earthquake and tsunami warning for New Zealand, and then another COVID outbreak. Auckland was locked down again and the start of the Americas Cup was postponed. “Oh great…!” (or words to that effect) I said. Visions of having to cancel the entire trip, everyone losing their money on non-refundable flights and accommodation ran through my head at all hours of the night.
Vic and I had a couple of tantrums, but then realised that throwing ourselves on the ground kicking and screaming wasn’t wasn’t really helping to improve the situation, other than providing entertainment to passers by. We went back to crossing our fingers and tows and thankfully that must have worked, because FINALLY we were at the airport drinking Champagne at 8am and on our way to the AMERICAS CUP!
We flew from Christchurch up to Auckland, dropped our bags off at our apartments and drove straight to the marina and jumped aboard a 55′ catamaran launch – Rasada for the day. No COVID outbreaks, earthquakes or tsunami’s were going to stop us now from getting out on to the racecourse, all we needed now was some wind… But thankfully that filled in too. We motored out to Course C, dropped the anchor amongst an absolutely enormous on water crowd, cracked open our wine and beautiful food, and sat back to enjoy the atmosphere.
It was a spectacular day on the water with lots of amazing friends, watching the boats fly past, the helicopters buzzing around filming the racing, all the boats tooting their horns when ETNZ went round the racecourse. It was brilliant.
I’d been lucky enough to also come up to watch some of the Prada Cup racing with my friends Dave & Danielle a couple of weeks earlier on their catamaran Exodus.
Being out on the water with such a huge group of spectator boats was an incredible experience, and you really need to see the race boats in real life to get a full appreciation of the speeds they are sailing at!
Our plan for Saturday was to watch the racing from North Head to get a different perspective. North Head is where we watched the start of the RNI Race last year, and you feel like you are looking straight down on the boats. However the wind had other ideas and the racecourse wasn’t located in the right area, so we headed down to the Viaduct instead. The shoreside atmosphere was almost as good as out on the water. We watched the boats being launched, saw all the super yachts leaving the dock and heading out to the racecourse, went shopping for Prada sunglasses and then settled in to the Conservatory to watch the racing on their big screens scattered throughout the restaurant.
Many bars had a minimum spend per person to sit and enjoy the racing – and to dissuade people lingering over one cup of coffee and clogging up the tables. So we handed over the cash and settled in for a bit of a session. Things were going pretty well – the racing was brilliant, and then the espresso martinis came out…
The rest of the night is a bit of a blur after that, but we managed to watch the yachts being put away, got some good dancing in at the main stage, visited a few more bars and then finished up with a dance party in the hotel. (Apologies to the neighbours…).
Its fair to say I wasn’t feeling very well on Sunday morning… I really shouldn’t have had that last drink – (or five). After some breakfast and a bit of quiet time laying in the shade under a tree, I came right. We did more shopping found another nice bar to watch the racing in, but the wind didn’t play ball and with racing called off for the day we all headed out to the airport for a bite of dinner before flying home.
I am not sure about the sailors, but being a spectator was getting quite exhausting! We headed along to No.4 Bar to watch again on Monday afternoon, then to the yacht club on Tuesday afternoon, where we all managed to get on the Channel 1 News.
The red socks and the ETNZ T Shirt were really due for a wash, I’d lost my voice from so much cheering, no one had any fingernails left, our livers were really needing a day off. With the results at 6-3 to us, we just needed one more race to win the Cup!
We’ve been here before though. We all want to forget 2013 – San Francisco, where Jimmy Spithill managed the most incredible comeback in sporting history. None of us wanted to count our chickens before they hatched!
We went back to No.4 Bar again with our favourite tables surrounded by TV’s and other fans, sitting in nervous anticipation. Would today be the day?
Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli were neck and neck for the first few legs of the race. It could really go either way with the lead changing a couple of times. We were all on the edge of our seats! Then we managed to start to pull ahead. After seeing what happened in the bizarre race 8, none of us wanted to get our hopes up until we had finally crossed the finish line, and when that happened the whole bar erupted in huge cheers of joy!
A fantastic achievement! It was amazing.
And now we’ve got four more years to start planning our next Americas Cup adventure! You can rest assured that we will be there to support the team! Go Emirates Team New Zealand!