Cheers rang out and corks popped at Blair Tuke's sailing club in Kerikeri as Team New Zealand crossed the finish line in Bermuda to take out world's most coveted yachting trophy.

About 35 people gathered at Kerikeri Cruising Club, where Team NZ sailors Blair Tuke and Andy Maloney first learnt to sail, to watch the final race of the America's Cup unfold yesterday.

Kerikeri Cruising Club commodore Doug France with a banner backing Blair Tuke, a life member of the club. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Kerikeri Cruising Club commodore Doug France with a banner backing Blair Tuke, a life member of the club. Photo / Peter de Graaf

The club doesn't have Sky TV so members watched the delayed broadcast on Prime about 6.30am instead. Some managed to keep the result a surprise; for others the extra wait was unbearable.

Club commodore Doug France said he was woken by pre-race nerves about 2am and gave up trying to sleep at 4am. He watched the race live at home then headed to the club, where he refused to give anything away.

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Kerikeri Cruising Club members showed their confidence by lining up bottles of bubbly ahead of the race. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Kerikeri Cruising Club members showed their confidence by lining up bottles of bubbly ahead of the race. Photo / Peter de Graaf

However, the bottles of bubbly lined up on the bar offered a clue, as did the celebratory fireworks someone let off across the Inlet around 5.30am.

With two sailors from the Kerikeri club in the team that returned the Auld Mug to New Zealand, the pride inside the clubrooms was palpable.

Neil Burson, left, and Kerikeri Cruising Club commodore Doug France watch the race unfold.
Neil Burson, left, and Kerikeri Cruising Club commodore Doug France watch the race unfold.

Draping a "Go Blair Go" banner across the bar, Mr France said Tuke was the club's youngest ever life member and he still came back regularly to help coach young sailors.

Despite his successes, including a gold medal in the Rio Olympics in the 49er class with Peter Burling, he remained unassuming and down-to-earth.

Nerves took their toll on cruising club members who didn't yet know the outcome. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Nerves took their toll on cruising club members who didn't yet know the outcome. Photo / Peter de Graaf

"He's one of our golden boys. He'll be remembered forever and a day in this club."

The America's Cup win was good news for the Kerikeri club and others like it because it was certain to boost interest in sailing.

The club signed up 20 new youth members on the day Tuke and Burling paraded through Kerikeri after their gold medal win; since then the youngsters' parents had also taken an interest in sailing, prompting the club to start a ladies learn-to-sail programme.

Among those watching yesterday's win was Derry Godbert, 83, the coach who gave Tuke and Maloney their start in sailing. Mr Godbert and the youth sailing programmes he pioneered are often credited for Kerikeri's strong record in the sport.

With boats that were closely matched in speed he put Team NZ's win down to boat handling and the crew's ability to get along with each other on shore as well as they worked together on the water.

"They're a neat bunch of people," he said.

■ Other Northlanders in Team NZ include Chris Hornell of Opua (support boat driver) and Carsten Mueller of Waipapa (hydraulics engineer).