Auckland and NZ have won international fame for our America's Cup and round-the-world yachtsmen. Suzanne McFadden charts the way the city and gulf have helped our sailors graduate from banana boxes to world-beaters.
Chris Bouzaid and Rainbow II - the man and his boat who catapulted New Zealand on to the world ocean-sailing chart - are about to race together again, almost half a century since their immortal deed.
The reunion on Auckland's harbour next week has been a long time coming. Bouzaid was just 25, an ambitious Auckland sailmaker, when he skippered his lightning-fast 36-footer to victory in the 1969 One Ton Cup in the North Sea. Winning the Formula One of ocean racing was the precursor to our future round-the-world and America's Cup triumphs.
After 121 race wins in the space of just two years, Bouzaid sold Rainbow II to a sailor in Bermuda.
But their story didn't end there. Now 72, and living in Rhode Island, Bouzaid rescued his old kauri-skinned boat from the scrapyard and brought her home to New Zealand, where she has been restored to full fighting trim.
Her revival has spurred the One Ton Cup Revisited, a five-race regatta starting next Saturday, bringing together some of the surviving One Tonners from New Zealand sailing history.
Bouzaid's string of successes in the late 60s also spurred on some of our greatest yachties. Among them were two Auckland teenagers, Peter Blake and Grant Dalton, who would create the second wave of New Zealand dominance on the offshore sailing scene.
Bouzaid was born into Auckland's sailing fraternity; his father Leo was one of the country's top sailmakers and a waterfront character. Chris and brother Tony were teenagers when Leo died; they inherited the successful sail-making business but were both hell-bent on pursuing careers on the water too.
At 23, Chris Bouzaid mortgaged his house to raise the 15,000 to build Rainbow II. With the help of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, Bouzaid and his Kiwi crew made a play for the 1968 One Ton Cup, contested off the German archipelago of Heligoland. Finishing runners-up, they returned the following year and stunned the fleet. Back home, they shared front-page headlines in the Auckland Star with another monumental achievement that same day - when man first walked on the moon.
A few years ago, Bouzaid found the boat in a sorry state in Bermuda and decided "it was time for her to come home". Her restoration at the hands of Max Carter, the man who built her 48 years ago, has been painstaking and she has a new future inspiring the next generation of Auckland sailors.
Wai Aniwa, the boat with which Bouzaid won back the One Ton Cup, in Sydney in 1972, will also line up in the One Ton Cup Revisited. But it's still Rainbow II that has the fondest hold on Bouzaid's heart. "This little yacht - along with her dedicated crews - was originally responsible for putting New Zealand on the international sailing map," he said.
Peter Blake was captivated by Bouzaid's exploits. In 1969, he was an engineering student at Auckland Technical Institute, and he and his brother Tony had won the New Zealand junior offshore champions title. Two years later, Blake would get his first taste of true offshore sailing, in the first Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro race - and he was ensnared.
The boy who'd sailed in banana boxes on the harbour's edge in Bayswater, who built his pug-nosed P Class dinghy Pee Bee in the backyard with his dad, couldn't wait to explore the world's oceans. He conquered them - circumnavigating the globe six times, winning the 1989-90 round-the-world race, and circling the world in a record-breaking 74 days.
The outstanding sailor would also become an inspiring leader - and father of Auckland's Viaduct Harbour. After leading Team New Zealand to victory in the 1995 America's Cup, one of New Zealand's most celebrated sporting achievements, Blake took on the city's bureaucrats to transform a smelly fishing dock into a world-class sailing village, the base for two dazzling Cup regattas.
Despite his premature death in the Amazon in 2001, Blake's legacy lives on in Auckland's still-vibrant yachting scene.
Grant Dalton's earliest memory of New Zealand sailing's prowess was Rainbow II's One Ton victory: "It started there for my generation," he says.
He was 12, and already well acquainted with the sea - racing his P Class dinghy, Andy Pandy, at Maraetai, and spending hours mucking around at the family's Hobson Bay boatshed.
Like Blake, he was fascinated by what lay beyond the Hauraki Gulf and was drawn to sail around the world seven times. On his fifth attempt, he won the round-the-world race on NZ Endeavour, and he also triumphed in The Race, a non-stop circumnavigation in 2001.
But Dalton, now in his third campaign at the head of Emirates Team New Zealand and still racing competitively at 57, has always been lured back to Auckland.
"There are some really amazing harbours around the world but there is something incredibly unique about Auckland's. I don't think there is anywhere else in the world like it - where on leaving the inner harbour you don't find yourself smack-bang amid the wide expanses of the ocean. There are so many beautiful islands to sail around and explore."
A life on the water
In 2002, Grant Dalton wrote the foreword to a
New Zealand Herald
publication, On The Water, celebrating Auckland's waterways. Here is an excerpt.
"Auckland's harbour - sometimes familiar friend, sometimes old foe - features on every page of the storybook of my sailing life.
"It was right there at the start, when as a kid I sailed in my first Anniversary Day regatta in the P Class dinghy my grandfather bought me. And there it was again, when I sailed into Auckland in a round the world campaign, so thrilled just to be coming home once again.
"Although most of my competitive sailing career has been on overseas waters, circumnavigating the globe seven times, all of my leisure sailing has been here in Auckland. I learned to sail at Maraetai where my family had a bach, in a P Class dinghy called Andy Pandy (I still have the name plate).
"When I was a teenager in the '70s, I spent all my time racing on the inner harbour. We were sailing Flying 18s, the toast of the harbour, screaming around every Saturday and Sunday. They were formative years in New Zealand yachting - it was sailing's first foray into sponsorship.
"For all its beauty, it can also be a very tricky place to sail in. There's a lot of tide in the harbour, where you can make big gains and big losses in a race. There's a treacherous sand bank off Narrow Neck where I have run aground - at pace - and the famous Ngapipi Rd lift.
"Six times I have sailed into Auckland on a round-the-world leg and every time, it's the greatest feeling. These days, you can see the Sky Tower from as far away as Kawau Island, and you know you are home. Other landmarks stir your emotions: Orakei Wharf, the Auckland Hospital chimney, the museum on the hill and then the Harbour Bridge."
City of sails
• Auckland, "The City of Sails", has more boats per capita than anywhere else in the world. There were about 132,000 boats in Auckland in 2011; NZ Marine projected the number of craft would swell to 222,000 in 2031.
• Auckland was the hub for yacht builders at the turn of the 20th century - the Logan and Bailey families crafted beautiful kauri boats that still grace the harbour today. Interest in sailboat racing grew; in 1939, 100,000 people watched a sailing race on Auckland Harbour.
• The first Auckland Regatta was held on the day the city was founded, September 18, 1840 - making it New Zealand's oldest sporting event (11 years older, in fact, than the first America's Cup contest). The impromptu regatta, which began as Lieutenant Governor William Hobson rowed ashore and took formal possession of the site of Auckland, featured three races between two gigs, two whaling boats and two Maori waka.
• There are 50 yacht clubs from Omaha in the north to Clarke's Beach at the southern end of the Manukau Harbour, with more than 17,000 members.
For more Auckland stories visit: www.aucklandmuseum.com/auckland-stories