Blairmania swept Kerikeri as America's Cup winning sailor and Olympic gold medallist Blair Tuke visited his home town on Friday.Taking a short break from training for a round-the-world race, Tuke spent the day signing countless autographs and posing for innumerable selfies, first at Kerikeri Retirement Village, then Kerikeri Primary, and finally at his former schools Kerikeri High and Riverview Primary.
He was given a rock-star welcome wherever he went, and that was just from the kids. The teachers were even more excited.
At Kerikeri Primary he was treated to a new entrants performance, then handed out achievement certificates and prizes for an America's Cup poster competition. He gave a short speech urging the kids to set goals and work hard to achieve them, "because when you do it's really satisfying and lots of fun".
Tuke was invited to add his signature to the bilingual unit's cloak, alongside those of other famous visitors, and, once the assembly was over, he was mobbed by pupils wanting his autograph on everything from hands to sneakers to school uniforms (there may have been a few cross mums in Kerikeri last night).
Angus Jessiman, 10, said he and his classmates were big fans of Blair Tuke.
"We're really excited for him to come to our school," he said.
Urban Fowler, also 10, said: "It's an honour to meet him. He's a really inspiring man. He helped us bring the America's Cup home, where it belongs."
Tuke said he was enjoying a rare chance to be home for a week.
"There's been so much support form everyone in New Zealand, especially from my home town. It's nice to be here and share it with the kids," he said.
Tuke is currently training with the Spanish team Mapfre for the Volvo Ocean Race, a nine-month, 70,000km round-the-world yacht race which starts on October 22.
If Mapfre wins he will be the first sailor in history to win the "Triple Crown" of an Olympic gold medal, the America's Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race.
The 28-year-old was part of the Emirates Team NZ crew which won the America's Cup in Bermuda in June. In the 2016 Rio Olympics he won gold in the 49er class with Peter Burling; the pair won silver four years earlier in London.
In October the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron is taking the America's Cup trophy on a tour of the nation's sailing clubs starting in Taipa on October 6 followed by Kerikeri and Whangarei cruising clubs on October 7.
It is hoped Andy Maloney, another Team NZ member who got his start in Kerikeri, will take part along with the team's on-water operations boss Chris Hornell of Opua and hydraulics engineer Carsten Mueller of Waipapa.