Auckland Awash in Ocean Race Fever
Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race is landing in the City of Sails, welcoming a fleet of Kiwi sailors home after an arduous three months at sea. Three boats are currently neck and neck, and the order is far from decided.
With leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race expected to conclude during the wee hours of Wednesday, February 28, and the Race Village opening last Saturday, Auckland Viaduct is abuzz with activity despite the dismal weather. Over the next 23 days, an expected 500,000 visitors will flock to the waterfront for live music, family-friendly activities and nautical displays, open from 10am to 10pm each day. Swanky pop-up bars by Peroni and Stoneleigh wines will offer upscale eats and drinks while making the most of the view on Te Wero Island.
On March 2, America’s Cup heroes Blair Tuke and Peter Burling will take to the main stage at 3pm for a Q&A session with race fans. Though Tuke and Burling, aboard MAPFRE and Team Brunel respectively, currently trail in fifth and sixth place, MAPFRE is the overall race leader. The local lads are looking forward to spending some time at home, with Tuke in particular jonesing for a steak-and-cheese pie and an L&P after months at sea eating mostly freeze-dried food.
A number of races will be held during the Auckland stopover, including an in-port race on March 10 and a pro-am race on March 16.
Auckland has a long history with the event, held every three years and formerly known as the Whitbread Round the World Race when it began in 1973. This year marks the 10th time that Auckland has hosted the race since first doing so in 1977. Burling, Tuke and Bianca Cook are among nine New Zealanders participating this year—Scallywag is the only boat with no Kiwi sailors—with Cook being the first Kiwi female competitor in almost two decades. James Blake, son of the late Sir Peter Blake, is a reporter on board Turn the Tide on Plastic.
The race, considered sailing’s most gruelling, covers 45,000 nautical miles, four oceans, six continents and 12 landmark cities. Leg 7, which kicks off March 18, will see the teams headed to Itajaí, Brazil, for what will be the longest and most challenging portion of the race, rounding treacherous Cape Horn. With five more legs to go, the race will finish sometime in June in The Hague, Netherlands.
Those of you unable to be in Auckland can soak up some of the atmosphere in the video below.