Under bluer skies


    There was Bermuda, its gleaming white roofs designed to funnel rainwater into underground cisterns; its lucent lagoon riffled with unnatural serenity.

    Watching Peter Burling helming his team impeccably through the America’s Cup series brought me a tickle of satisfaction when I remembered that I, too, had been on that water – at much the same age and probably having nearly as much fun.

    We had just sailed up the Atlantic from Cape Town, via St Helena, Brazil and the West Indies. Pendragon’s spinnakers  – such a handful in the open ocean –were deployed for more peaceful use. Anchored by the stern in the pellucid water, we could set up the spinnakers with a bight between the twin clews and settle our fellow yachties and inevitable shore guests up to fly at crosstree height in the warm breeze.

    The puffs and gusts added spice and the girls, weighing much less, undoubtedly had the most nervewracking flights.

    The delights of the Bermuda stopover also included an indefatigable round of ward-room drinks with Royal Navy friends who were in the port and gargantuan barbecues with local resident-caretakers who had mandates to party at posh mansions with oversized pools and endless piña coladas. Chris Bouzaid’s Rainbow II was tucked in the marina.

    This elysian interlude between the magnificent sailing of the West Indies behind us and the Bermuda Triangle and the North Atlantic that lay ahead was a moment out of time.
    In the unaccustomed calms of midwinter Auckland, this last fortnight’s vicarious delights of Team New Zealand’s Bermuda campaign peaked with the heady sight of the Auld Mug hoisted aloft by our latest yachting heroes.

    It had the same pleasing sense of half-forgotten familiarity.

    The years when Peter Blake kept us spellbound and our harbour alive and vibrant, were fun.

    We knew ourselves.

    No bureaucrat would have suggested for two seconds dropping our ‘City of Sails’ subtitle. We didn’t have to justify ourselves as a gridlocked ‘powerhouse’.  We were still a vibrant Polynesian city and poverty to the point of homelessness was unthinkable.

    Kids grew up sailing optimist dinghies and swimming like fish; the world their oyster.
    As a country, and in Auckland, we lost the vision. Particularly, the potential of our young – with no excuse at all given the long-running successes of our young Olympian athletes, sports prodigies like Lydia Ko, musician Lorde and a raft of young and innovative businesspeople, some of them putting rockets in space with the best of them.

    One of the problems for citizens in the austerity culture at this odd stage of globalisation is that there is damn all possibility thrown out ahead of us. Business gives us consumerism and political ‘leaders’ give us echo-chambers of ‘sound economies’ and ‘stability’ but little hope of fair play or reductions in grinding social shortfalls, traffic gridlock or household wellbeing.

    In this context, the cameras under the Bermuda sun captured a refreshing acknowledgement of the power of Team New Zealand’s clear goals, in defiance of history and threadbare coffers.

    Commitment and integrity rang true from skipper Glenn Ashby, from super-yachtsman Peter Burling and his fellow Olympic teammates, from his delightful parents, from long-time sponsors and Matteo de Nora’s board members and from chief executive Grant Dalton’s old guard who carried the torch to make the improbable a signal success.

    Financial backer Sir Stephen Tindall has said that the 36th America’s Cup will be held in Auckland – a campaign that will be windier and more varied, as well as being promised to be less fixated on winning than the format in recent years.

    The Tamaki Strait off Waiheke is one of the possible courses, though I doubt the most likely. Many of us saw the tall silhouettes of the practise boats from the island earlier in the year but the inner harbour off Westhaven and the present Tank Farm is also big enough, especially since the choice of boats for kiwi weather circumstances remains to be determined and foils don’t demand the huge depths of water of the earlier monohulls.
    A richly varied vision for our city four years from now is just what we needed. Liz Waters

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