New Zealand pride goes on the line today when America's Cup racing begins - with a Covid twist on crowd numbers.
Today's racing between defender Team New Zealand and Italian challenger Luna Rossa will begin from 4.15pm on either race course A, offshore from Takapuna in Auckland's North Shore, or race course E, east of the city near Maraetai. There are two races, with the second scheduled for 5.15pm.
Those courses were chosen because they were "least likely to attract crowds on-land", being further from shore or further from Auckland, officials said.
Under Covid level 2, events at the America's Cup Race Village have also been cancelled, with big screens no longer broadcasting live action from the harbour to prevent gatherings of more than 100 people and keep spectators 2m apart.
Despite that, sailing fans watching the action from out on the water were expected to flood the harbour with recreational boats, while the city's pubs and restaurants would also be flinging their doors open.
"Covid-19 has showed us the importance of supporting local, so if you're looking for a way to watch this week, why not head to your favourite bar, restaurant or cafe screening the action," Auckland Unlimited's general manager - destinations Steve Armitage said.
The dour Covid restrictions are far from the way most people envisaged Team New Zealand's defence of the Auld Mug taking place when it was first announced Auckland would host.
Most expected the city to be awash in Cup parties and its marinas inundated with the super yachts of the rich and famous.
Auckland Unlimited's Armitage hoped the city would be back to alert level 1 settings by the weekend when racing is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday and that live Cup events could return.
"We have a big weekend of action planned, including the resumption of many of our Summernova events if we shift to alert level 1," he said.
"Plus of course a very special virtual performance from Sir Rod Stewart in the lead-up to Saturday's racing."
In the meantime, today's two races between 4pm-6pm as well as Friday's two races would take place under level 2 restrictions.
And while activities were cancelled at the Cup Village, it would still be open as "a public space and public thoroughfare", a spokesman for America's Cup Events, which holds the licence to operate the race, said.
"Areas within the village are zoned for maximum capacity reasons at any given time irrespective of and under Covid level conditions," he said.
"If capacity in a particular zone is reached, full house arrangements will be in place and access restricted."
There would not be any cordoned off areas to ensure people were restricted to gathering of no more than 100 people, he said.
"The America's Cup Events security team will be monitoring congregations of the public and encouraging social distancing," the spokesman said.
The security team would report any issues back to a control room, who would then contact the police if and when required.
"The ACE Security team will be managing overall security at the village but ultimate responsibility will rest with police."
Police would also be present at the village.
Nearby pubs and restaurants would be open but required to operate under level 2 restrictions, including having tables kept 1m apart.
While Auckland Unlimited wasn't encouraging people to gather on-shore to watch today's racing, it would monitor Kennedy Park in Castor Bay where it had earlier roped off stairs as a health and safety measure if race course A was chosen.
A planned fanzone at Takaparawhau, or Bastion Pt, below the Ōrākei Marae would also only operate if Auckland returned to a level 1 setting.
The spectator fleet, meanwhile, would be able to operate safely on the water with individual captains responsible for ensuring physical distancing and contact tracing takes place on-board, officials said.
That included charter boats taking guests out to watch the racing.
Maritime NZ northern compliance manager Neil Rowarth also reminded boaties it was crucial to wear lifejackets and keep a safe speed.
"If you're the skipper, you're legally responsible for the safety of the boat and everyone on board," he said.
"The maximum speed permitted for all boats is 5 knots – about 9 kilometres an hour – within 200 metres of shore and within 50 metres of any other boat or swimmer."
"There is also a 5 knot speed restriction within the harbour and in the vicinity of the race course."
The America's Match is a best of 13 series, with the winner being crowned champions and awarded the Auld Mug. The racing window for each race day will be around 4pm-6pm, with the first race of each day scheduled for 4.15pm.
Mar 10: Race 1 and 2
Mar 12: Race 3 and 4
Mar 13: Race 5 and 6
Mar 14: Race 7 and 8*
Mar 15: Race 9* and 10*
Mar 16: Race 11* and 12*
Mar 17: Race 13*
* if necessary.
To win Race 1:
Team New Zealand - $1.30
Luna Rossa - $3.20
Overall winner of the America's Cup:
Team New Zealand - $1.25
Luna Rossa - $3.50
How to watch and stream
The Herald will have live updates on nzherald.co.nz/sport with AUT's sailing professor Mark Orams, while you can listen to live commentary on Gold AM and iHeartRadio.
America's Cup coverage is free-to-air on TVNZ. You can also stream the action live or on-demand on TVNZ.co.nz or on the America's Cup YouTube channel.
Restrictions at alert level 2
• Racing under alert Level 2 will be restricted to only be sailed on either race course A or E. Under alert Level 1, all courses will become an option to race on again for the regatta director.
• No public viewing opportunities such as dock out shows or public screening of racing in the race village.
• Including gatherings of no more than 100 people in the America's Cup race village or public spectator vantage points around Auckland.
• Limited village activations to ensure no more than 100 people.
• Two metre physical distancing, and face masks recommended.
• All bars, restaurants and cafes surrounding the race village can remain open in line with Ministry of Health Covid-19 level 2 guidelines.
• Public are reminded to always scan the NZCOVID19 Tracer App.
Heading into the cup racing?
• Give yourself plenty of time and think about catching a ferry, train or bus to watch the cup.
• Make sure your AT HOP card is in your pocket. It's the best way to ride.
• Don't forget to scan QR codes with the NZ COVID Tracer app when on public transport and entering the America's Cup village.
• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit at.govt.nz/americascup.