Emirates Team New Zealand has been given a heroes’ welcome on Auckland’s downtown waterfront as thousands of fans filled Shed 10 on Queen’s Wharf.
As New Zealanders lined-up to congratulate the humbled team it was evident that while Grant Dalton, Dean Barker and the rest of Team NZ had lost the America’s Cup in San Francisco - they had succeeded in capturing the hearts of a nation.
Dean Barker is welcomed
A spine-tingling rendition of the New Zealand national anthem ‘God Defend New Zealand’ rang out as the crowd waited for their heroes to return. Proud fans, young and old, waved flags and signs before parting down the middle to welcome the beaming team to rapturous applause, and much hand-shaking and back-patting.
Dean Barker waves to the crowd
It was a sight to behold as after days of waiting for the winning moment, Kiwi musician Dave Dobbyn was finally able to play his athematic songs ‘Loyal’ and ‘Welcome Home’ to the team and their supporters who had been nothing but loyal throughout the tournament.
For almost three weeks, New Zealand collectively held its breath as Emirates Team New Zealand gallantly challenged Oracle Team US out on San Francisco Bay.
Early on, the 34th America’s Cup looked to be heading back to New Zealand as the team led Oracle 8-1 - but the elusive ninth victory never came.
A mix of money, speed and technology helped Cup holders Oracle over the line, but it was the passion, spirit, strength and determination of Emirates Team New Zealand that won out in the end.
The crew is celebrated on Auckland harbour
It was these typical Kiwi traits that succeeded in bringing Team New Zealand to the attention of the nation, and indeed the world - including the many Americans who seemed to side with the underdogs of Team New Zealand from the beginning.
Both Dean Barker and Grant Dalton were genuinely humbled as they thanked the crowd for their support.
The team arrived to a traditional Maori welcome and were honoured with a traditional haka - the Maori war dance - before taking to boats to sail around the glistening Waitemata Harbour - the harbour that has no doubt inspired many of these men to become sailors.
The tagline for New Zealand at the America’s Cup was ‘Win or lose we stand together’ and on the Auckland waterfront on Friday (04.10.2013) Team New Zealand and their fans did just that.
Team NZ on the water
If New Zealanders have their way - the nation will be ready to cheer on their team again when Team New Zealand throw down the gauntlet on the water for the next round.
They also have the words of Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce: "This country and this government stands ready to be part of the next America's Cup. Bring us a proposal and we will work with you on it."