Former Wanganui Collegiate rower Paparangi Hipango has been lapping up the action out on San Francisco Bay watching Team New Zealand race in the America's Cup.
Ms Hipango, now studying on a rowing and education scholarship at the University of California in Berkeley, said by email yesterday that she was lucky enough to go out four times on a friend's yacht to watch the races.
"It has been an uplifting experience. I remember watching the America's Cup when I was a young girl and seeing Team New Zealand win in 2000, when I was just 9 years old.
"That was my first experience of this huge yachting event and it is one of the only things I remember from back then.
"That and watching Rob Waddell win a gold medal in rowing in the men's sculls at the Sydney Olympics that same year.
"Back then Rob was my hero and has been since I began my rowing career."
So she was blown away when she got the chance to meet her hero on her visit to the big event in San Francisco.
"I was given the opportunity to meet him person-to-person right after he'd come off the water back at the Team New Zealand base at the pier. He is such a humble and strong man."
Ms Hipango said being on San Francisco Bay when Team New Zealand was racing enabled her to learn a lot about the way the boat goes in the water.
"Much like rowing, it looks a lot simpler than it actually is. There are a lot of technicalities involved and it is far from a simple job.
"These boats have so many complicated mechanical functions, it's ridiculous. But when you see it up close, propelling at full speed through a bay as big as San Francisco's, it is absolutely breathtaking.
"I'm so lucky to be able to be here to experience the America's Cup and watch our team tear it up in the bay."
Ms Hipango, 22, is in her third year at Berkeley and is one of 60 young women in the university rowing squad - which she says is like having 59 sisters. She returned to Wanganui in June to spend time with her parents Harete and Dean and sister Roimata to celebrate her rowing team, the CalBear squad's win of the prized US college rowing championship.
Team New Zealand won both races yesterday and now lead by seven points.