Harbour salute for Team New Zealand

Team New Zealand amazed by public's reaction since their return from marathon battle in San Francisco

Grinder Chris McAsey, wife Suzy and their children Brooke (front) and Billie.
Grinder Chris McAsey, wife Suzy and their children Brooke (front) and Billie.

As they sat on their deck in the Northland sunshine drinking Waikato beer yesterday, the pain of Team New Zealand's heartbreaking America's Cup defeat was already fading for the McAsey family.

As a grinder Chris McAsey put himself through physical hell day after day. The regatta was no less torturous for wife Suzy, and all the families of the sailors who spent several months on San Francisco's shores.

Today's Auckland waterfront reception would be welcomed by the sailors and their families as it drew a line under the campaign, Mrs McAsey said.

"It's a nice end point. Otherwise it gets left hanging. It's nice to have something to get back together for and have a happy ending."

"In their bubble" the racing sailors hadn't been fully aware of how much the country had embraced their efforts and they had been amazed at the reaction since their return home.

"The guys have been really, really surprised," Mrs McAsey said. "I don't think they really grasped how New Zealand was reacting until they touched down.

I guess they were thinking 'oh god, New Zealand will think we've failed again'. But they've realised it's not like that at all.

"Full credit to the country, really. Because we haven't been known to react to [defeat] well. It shows that we've maybe grown up a bit and can give credit where credit is due instead of slagging people off."

Team boss Grant Dalton rejected the idea of a reception following the 2007 Cup defeat in Valencia but this time he felt the recognition was justified.

"He's all for it. They can see it for what it is. They did everything humanly possible."

Mrs McAsey left San Francisco before the regatta ended so Chris could fully concentrate on his job. Watching the last few races from New Zealand was tough but she could see the writing was on the wall as Oracle's boat had improved so much.

"To be honest it was just total relief that it was all over for the guys [after the last race]. Chris had been grinding his arse off for a couple of months.

"He explained it like imagining the hardest workout you ever do and do that for 16 days in a row, plus the mental and emotional struggle.

"The All Blacks front up for a test and then go home. These guys had to front up 16 days in a row. They were superhuman really."

Thousands of fans are expected to turn out for the reception. Auckland Council has cleared Queens Wharf for the event, which begins at noon at Shed 10.

Dalton and Dean Barker will speak and Dave Dobbyn will sing.

- NZ Herald

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