America's Cup 2021: Organisers hope more Aucklanders support sailing

The Prada Cup officially began on Friday, with the three America's Cup challengers vying for a chance to race Emirates Team New Zealand in March.

With COVID-19 forcing border closure, no tourists are allowed into the country, so organisers and local businesses are crossing their fingers that Kiwis head down to the Auckland waterfront over coming weeks to support the event. 

The city put on perfect weather for the opening day of racing, with spectators at the viaduct enjoying a stunning day of live sport. 

"We're very blessed to be having an event like this in the world, compared to everywhere else," says race director Iain Murray.  

But with no internationals coming to New Zealand, organisers need more Kiwis to recognise the privilege they have and support the Cup. 

More than $250 million of public money has been spent to host the America's Cup and local businesses hope the sailing brings punters along.

"I think that it'll build up over the next couple of weeks and the excitement will build up, as the races keep going," says Chelsea Herbert of Drifters Pizza. 

Police say viaduct capacity is about 26,000 people, but only 3500 turned up for last month's America's Cup world series.

The opening day of challenger racing was busier than a normal Friday, but it's still much quieter than it would be if tourists were here.

The new AC75 foiling monohulls can hit a 100 kph and the high-speed racing is attracting more people to the sport.

"I've never been on a yacht in my life, but it's incredible watching it on TV and I must say it's incredible looking at it live as well," says one interested spectator. 

The high speeds come with more risk and the new boats promise high drama, with more capsizes expected, as teams push them to the limit.

"When a boat capsizes, the crew are well and truly drilled," Murray says. "It's become part of sailing these boats and it's like a car spinning out."

Auckland's North Head is the best spot to watch the racing from land, depending on which course is used, but less than 100 people turned out to watch on Friday.

Organisers will hope, as the regatta continues, more Aucklanders on get on board and support the Prada Cup.

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Join us at 3pm Saturday for live updates of the America’s Cup challenger series.