America's Cup: Record crowds pack Cup Village and Fan Zones

Aucklanders surged into the Americas Cup village and official vantage points for the first weekend racing of the tight contest, and the first full day under Covid-19 alert level 1.
Crowd estimates peaked at 15,000 in the village, which sprawls along Aucklands waterfront, with other big gatherings.

One of the biggest crowd moments was a singalong of Rod Stewarts Sailing beamed out from the main stage in Auckland, and from many of the 22 fan zones around the country.

On the water, an estimated 2000 spectator boats lined mostly the Rangitoto Island side of the northern course A.


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The crowds rolled in early in the day, with an estimated 8000 in the village before midday, hours before the start of the main entertainment and the boat departures.

Team New Zealand opened a long stretch of quayside viewing at its base, packed with fans who cheered them out, with another big crowd alongside the Luna Rossa base.


The crowd did not test the capacity of the village, which is 25,000 at any one time, and with three big screens and viewing areas, the visitors can be spread.

RYAN ANDERSON/Stuff
Big crowds were out on the third day of America's Cup racing on Aucklands waterfront.

At 2.30pm, Clarke Gayford, television personality and the partner of the Prime Minister, hosted an hour-long programme which had been intended as the gala opening, before the Covid-19 alert level 2 postponement of the intended opening weekend on March 6.


A crowd of as many as 5500 were in the Te Wero area and sang along with Rod Stewart in a Tourism New Zealand-organised global promotion, linked to a performance of his 1975 hit Sailing.

Todd Niall/Stuff
MC Clarke Gayford led an hour-long show at the Cup Village in Auckland.

Gayford and Stewart talked over Zoom in advance of the performance, with the British rocker reminiscing about his tours in New Zealand and his visits here with ex-wife Rachel Hunter.

They shared a laugh over Stewart describing how he always had to walk two paces behind Hunter when they were here like the Duke of Edinburgh does with the Queen, with Gayford chiming in, I know how that works.

Stewart said he loved New Zealands vineyards and beaches: I love the ocean, I really do. I love being in it, on it, around it, looking at it.

NZ TOURISM
Rod Stewart discusses his connection to NZ after the America's Cup singalong to Sailing.

Another 1400 fans had gathered at fan zones at Takapuna, Bastion Point and Devonport, even though racing had been moved to the more remote northern course.


Before the show, two Air Force fly-pasts involved six trainer planes, then a Boeing 757 and a Hercules transporter.

RYAN ANDERSON/Stuff
Some took a cool dip on the edge of the Americas Cup village in Auckland.

Most of the crowd stayed after the singalong to watch the first of the days two races, before which the scoreline between defender Team New Zealand and Challenger Luna Rossa stood at 2-2.

RYAN ANDERSON/Stuff
Big crowds at the smallest of three screens watch racing in the Americas Cup village in Auckland.

On water, the record spectator fleet posed no problems to racing, despite concerns following the abandonment of the first race start on Friday, due to boats not being where they should be.

The regatta director Iain Murray questioned the harbourmasters call to abandon the start, saying the stray boats were not on the course, and better management was needed.

Racing continues on Sunday until one of the two teams scores seven wins.

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