Sailing: Organisers face challenge of shifting successful SailGP event from Lyttelton to Auckland

SailGP's debut on these shores is already being celebrated by organisers, who must now consider how its imminent shift north could impact the event.

After delays due to COVID-19 and venue changes, New Zealand hosted the world series for the first time over the weekend, with some teams declaring it the best stopover so far.

That sort of feedback has organisers already considering how they can build off its success.

"I think it probably exceeded expectations," SailGP NZ head of event Karl Budge told Newshub.

The competition's first dip of the toe into New Zealand waters proved to be a fruitful one.

"The support this weekend has been amazing, seeing so many people in the grandstand, the corporate hospitality... not only that but on the water, every vantage point around," said Budge.

"I think the people that got exposed to it for the first time yesterday, I'd dare suggest we created a few more fans around the traps each year now."

That support is vital, if the event is to grow globally, as it nears the end of its third season.

Picturesque scenes from Lyttleton Harbour were beamed around the world during the two-day event and while the result on the water didn't go their way, the Kiwi sailors are thrilled with the success off it.

"It just seems like Christchurch has got behind this event like we never thought was possible," said NZ driver Peter Burling. "It's just been amazing to be down here." 

Canada celebrate their SailGP victory at Lyttelton
Canada celebrate their SailGP victory at Lyttelton. Photo credit: Photosport

Strategist Liv Mackay confirmed: "It's been an incredible weekend. I can't believe the home crowd, it's been the best event for us by far." 

Other teams joining the chorus in singing the event's praise, with Switzerland’s Sebastien Schneiter saying that it was "lots of fun".

"This race track is amazing, the best one so far," he insisted.

The New Zealand leg will head to Auckland next year, with Budge keen to build off the love felt in Lyttleton, without repeating and replicating.

"It'll be different," he admitted. "There are different challenges.

"It's a really different body of water. There's a uniqueness to each venue.

"We won't have the transportation challenge that we had to overcome in Christchurch, but then we've still got to move people into our biggest city and bring that bigger city to life.

“In Christchurch, we were the biggest show in town. In Auckland, we'll have to make sure we do our job really well, and demand the headlines and the attention.

"Each event will have its own personality - not necessarily good or bad, just unique."

That work begins now, before they even set sail in the City of Sails.