A ship of students is approaching Auckland after a five-day adventure at sea, at the head of a fleet of activities planned by NZ Sailing Trust around the 36th Americas Cup.
The 16 students aged between seventeen and eighteen are completing the route as part of a Duke of Edinburgh Hillary Award, which requires participants to plan and launch an adventure. However, as the first Gold Level award hosted by the Sailing Trust, it will be an adventure with a difference.
Having set off from Sullivan's Bay on Monday – the crew are completing the final leg of the journey on the Steinlager II. The famous boat in which Sir Peter Blake raced around the world in 1989, has been home to the crew of students on their journey around the Coromandel.
"It's a bit different to your usual Gold Award," says Evelien Van Vliet, development manager for NZST. "Most awards go tramping overland for their Adventurous journey."
The cost is also significantly above average too, at $1,175 per sailor for of board, equipment and boat hire.
However raising funds and planning has been a significant part of gaining the Award. Rotorua Lakes High School pupils, Kirsty and Isidora, funded their journey by selling chocolate bars and working in a local bike shop.
"It has been a lot of hard work and taught us both resilience and negotiation skills," says Isidora, who is in year 12.
The students come from schools in Auckland and Rotorua and most had never been sailing before the adventure.
"The award encourages students to plan their own journey and be self-sufficient," Says Van Vliet.
Sailing into Auckland Harbour ahead of tomorrow's racing at 3pm, they will pass the America's Cup boats on the water.
The end of the journey marks the start of the NZ Sailing Trust's calendar of public events around the America's Cup racing. These include a chance to watch races on the water with sports journalist Larry Keating, which will be held from 6 to 15 March on Steinlager II and her sister ship Lion NZ and a series of give-it-a-go Rum Races from 5 February. Fees will be used to fund sailing lessons and leadership training for school groups.
All going well, the Duke of Edinburgh sailing will be the first of many. NZ Sailing Trust and Auckland Sea Kayaks are set to take three more expeditions on the water this year.