Kiwi Jack: Chapter Eleven

Upon examination this morning, I have cuts and scrapes on my right arm and knee, a pulled muscle in my back, right shoulder and either a very sore or slightly sprained left knee after yesterday’s unscheduled swim in Lake Taupo.

But, we were staying in Rotorua, the home of the geothermal pools. I try to refrain from criticizing towns that I am currently staying in, so I saved this one for today: that town smells. I mean bad…a horrible sulfur smell which ostensibly comes off the pools pervades every nook and cranny of that town. Though we enjoyed the Maori Hangi last night (which was far enough outside to avoid said smell), we were anxious to leave.

Nothing like a wonderful odor to get you motivated in the morning.

After a short three hour drive through some nondescript but still pretty Kiwi farmland, we arrived in Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city by far. Home to just under a third of the country’s population (1.3 million to 4.4m for the country), Auckland certainly has all the hallmarks of a thriving metropolis: big corporate buildings, busy streets and a lot of things to do.

Though I’ll cover Auckland in a later post, I’ll focus today’s on a much more satisfactory water activity than yesterdays: a ride on an actual America’s Cup yacht.

Our ride for today was the Japanese boat which lost in the semifinals in 1995 to (who else?) New Zealand.

The boat costs roughly $20 million in (of course) a specialized production.

The boat itself weighs 24 tons, but only four above the waterline; the boat is actually incredibly light and almost literally skims across the top of the water.

An America’s Cup boat is crewed by 18 total people.

The crew literally crawls up and down all the lines and all over the boat, pushing the sails up as fast as possible to reduce every bit of wind resistance.

This front sail goes up and down depending on the wind. The Kiwi team can raise it from under the boat in eight seconds, and have it back under the boat in less than five.

Though not actual America’s Cup crew, up to eight people turn these winches at a time to push the sails up, down, or side to side as the skipper decides.

The winches must be pushed by two people, and the average crew member assigned to one is over six foot and 130kg of muscle.

The main sail is in the back, and the boom swings left, right or center based on what the boat is doing.

This is the boat tacking, which means it leans one way or the other to grab just a bit more wind.

We rolled along somewhere between 6 and 7 knots today. In an actual race, this boat is capable of around 35 knots and can literally go faster than the wind.

They even let some randos drive the boat. I was lucky enough to be included in this, and drove the boat for something like 10 minutes. Unlike yesterday’s kayaking experience, I didn’t end up in the water (always a positive). I’m pretty proud of myself that I set a course to split two buoys and hit that dead on over several minutes. The boat handles like a dream; I don’t think my Mustang has that kind of response.

But…enough education about the boats. You want to see the scenery right?

My first impression of Auckland: one of the most beautiful major cities in the world. Take a look.

On the way out, we hit a bit of rain (you might have noticed the raincoats). But that didn’t deter a whole lot of sailboats from hitting the harbor today.

They call Auckland the City of Sails. Apparently, there’s a regular race every Wednesday afternoon in the summer. I definitely dig that.

Yeah, that’s literally a rainbow. Here it is again:

Can’t decide if that shot is better with or without the boat.

I could get used to this.

This island is visible from downtown Auckland. Not a bad looking suburb, no?

What city has a national park on its own island just 20 minutes away? You got it.

Couldn’t resist playing with light, clouds and camera again.

Coming back into Auckland proper, the clouds lifted to give us just a spectacular day.

Auckland. Pretty awesome. And I’m here for the next three days.

August 12, 6:26pm
Auckland, New Zealand