Four traditional double-hulled waka set sail on the Waitemata Harbour yesterday, ahead of a far larger journey across the Pacific.
The Te Kumete O Te Moana Nui (The Bowl of the Pacific) regatta was the first time the waka have sailed together.
The 22m vessels, each carrying up to 16 crew, travelled from the Auckland Harbour Bridge to Motuihe Island and back.
They had to change their original route to Motuihe Island as there was not enough breeze, said spokeswoman Debra Douglas.
"Only the breeze has let them down, actually. There were thousands of people at Mission Bay to watch the dogfight in the air, so they provided a show in the air and we provided a show on the water." The event started with an opening ceremony at Bayswater Marina before the waka departed for the start line.
They returned to Bayswater about 3.30pm, where a kava ceremony, voyage blessing and cultural activities took place.
The regatta was held to preview the Pacific's Challenge, which will start from Auckland on Wednesday and take the waka fleet thousands of kilometres from Auckland to French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.
"The length of the voyage will depend on the breeze, but it will probably take about a month," Ms Douglas said.
"They will have all their supplies on board and will keep going throughthe night, taking it in turn to be on watch."
Ms Douglas said the aim of the regatta and the Pacific voyage was to raise awareness of environmental issues that face the Pacific Ocean, recapture traditional Pacific voyaging skills and re-establish cultural links among the countries that share the Pacific.