Sunday, March 11, 2012

Auckland Turns It on for the Volvo Race crews


Around midnight the Tricolor was waved proudly by dozens of French supporters at the Port of Auckland, there to welcome the French challenge Groupama over the liner to win this leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. Thousands of people including some of the guests and crew of The Great Ponsonby were  also there.
  On a damp Sunday afternoon we are among ten thousand people to welcome Telephonica, the third boat in. We missed the second boat, Puma but we were really there for Camper arriving after battling huge seas for twenty days. My skin prickled as a Maori welcome rang out across the viaduct harbour and every boat there sounded their horn. There was   no mistaking this to be anything but a warm kiwi welcome. Camper was only ninety seconds behind the third placed boat and overall leader, Telefonica.
 An enthusiastic Hannah Wallace from the Untied Kingdom revved us up but we had to hang around for a bit as the exhausted crew hugged their families and munched hamburgers and chips. At last the crew, their families and oodles of kids were on the stage, ticker tape poured on them, champagne corks popped, and red camper flags were waved madly throughout the crowd.
  New Zealanders like any nationality want to win.  We know that we have a slow boat and it is a hard slog but we know the skill of our sailors who fought on in this toughest of races. All the locals were there to salute the crews who remain in good spirits in spite of twenty days of being pounded These are race boats. They are not floating gin palaces but are constructed to withstand the toughest of oceans rather than provide a good nights sleep.
In a weeks time they take off again to South America and I wonder if any of their other layovers will bring out so many of the population to welcome them in? We are a boatie nation and we support our sailors.