The Volvo Ocean Race event has been launched in Auckland with a pōwhiri at the Viaduct Harbour.

Although the boats aren't due to arrive until Wednesday, the race village opened at 10am.

Minister for Economic Development David Parker, Auckland Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore and representatives from Ngāti Whātua Orākei were in attendance to welcome Volvo Ocean Race operations director Peter Ansell and other staff to the City of Sails.

Read more: Auckland's 23-day ocean race party kicks off today

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The Volvo Ocean Race village opened with a pōwhiri this morning. Photo / Michael Craig
The Volvo Ocean Race village opened with a pōwhiri this morning. Photo / Michael Craig
Ngāti Whātua Orākei representatives at the Volvo Ocean Race village opening. Photo / Michael Craig
Ngāti Whātua Orākei representatives at the Volvo Ocean Race village opening. Photo / Michael Craig

Parker said Auckland had a lengthy history with the race, having hosted it 10 times in the past 46 years.

He paid tribute to Sir Peter Blake and Grant Dalton who had competed in previous races, as well as Peter Burling, Blair Tuke and Bianca Cook, who are among seven New Zealanders participating this year. Cook is the first woman competitor in two decades.

Spending months at sea - often in uncomfortable conditions - required grit, Parker said.

"The [Volvo] Ocean Race is a true test of endurance and yachting expertise."

Read more: Sailing: Peter Burling gets one over on Blair Tuke in Volvo Ocean Race

He said hosting the event would help showcase the expertise and technology of Auckland's marine industry, and give visitors a chance to enjoy some Kiwi hospitality.

Ngāti Whātua Orākei representatives perform a waita at the opening of the Volvo Ocean Race village, Viaduct Basin. Photo / Michael Craig
Ngāti Whātua Orākei representatives perform a waita at the opening of the Volvo Ocean Race village, Viaduct Basin. Photo / Michael Craig

Ansell delivered a pepeha, after which he was praised by local kaumātua for his use of te reo Māori.

The Auckland leg is the longest stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race and Ansell said people in the city were always really engaged with the event.

"The local enthusiam and interest here in Auckland is just fantastic."

Read more: Ocean Volvo Race: Auckland readies for 23-day ocean race party

Volvo Ocean Race operations director Peter Ansell speaks at the opening of the event's
Volvo Ocean Race operations director Peter Ansell speaks at the opening of the event's "village". Photo / Michael Craig

Members of the public, hotel staff and taxi drivers would always ask questions about the racing while it was on, he said.

Grant Calder, delivery manager of the Auckland stopover, told the Herald he was expecting 500,000 people to visit the race village during the next 23 days and 50,000 to go there to watch The New Zealand Herald In Port Race in the harbour on March 10.

It was the race's history in Auckland that made it so popular, he said.

"It's the Everest of sailing really."