Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei hosted members of Emirates Team New Zealand in a special ceremony at Orākei Marae on Saturday, helping inspire the next generation of New Zealand’s sailors.


The visit included a formal pōwhiri welcoming the team onto the marae, speeches from kaumatua and Emirates Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton, a Q&A with the team, and Emirates Team New Zealand signing autographs and taking photos with members of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. 


Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust Deputy Chairman Ngarimu Blair said the day was an opportunity to celebrate Emirates Team New Zealand’s success on the marae and reinforce the strong links that had been formed between the two groups dating back to the Whitbread Round the World race.


“Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei has been a longstanding supporter of Emirates Team New Zealand and we were thrilled to see the team secure the cup for Aotearoa with their success in Bermuda,” Mr Blair said. 


“Our strong relationship has seen more than 120 of our tamariki go through Learn to Sail programmes on the Waitemata which wouldn’t have happened without the support of Emirates Team New Zealand and the Royal Akarana Yacht Club.


“Like the rest of the country, we’ll be cheering the team on when they defend the cup in 2021 in Tāmaki Makaurau and we hope that by meeting their heroes today, our tamariki are inspired to become the next generation of Emirates Team New Zealand sailors.”


Keenan Soa, 19, a Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei graduate of the Learn to Sail programme, said seeing the America’s Cup and Emirates Team New Zealand in person at Orākei Marae was a special experience.


“Sailing was something that I wasn’t really that keen on at first, but I loved the training and spending time on the water, especially being able to do it with my whānau,” Mr Soa said.


“To see the actual America’s Cup up close and talk to the team was amazing, I had so many questions I couldn’t get my words out!” 


“Thinking about the achievements of the team, watching them come back from the last cup and win it this time for New Zealand, made me super proud of their hard work.  I’m looking forward to seeing them defend the America’s Cup here soon”, he said. 


Emirates Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton said the day was an important one for his team. 


“This is a really special occasion for us to be able to bring the America’s Cup to Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei on the Orakei Marae,” he said.


“The relationship between Emirates Team New Zealand and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei has been in place for almost as long as the team itself has existed. They have christened all of our boats in that time and were part of an incredibly special day a year ago in blessing our boat that went on to win the America’s Cup back for New Zealand.”


“Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei has been strong supporters of the team win, lose, or draw so it’s great we can reward their support by bringing the Auld Mug to the Marae and sharing it with them today”, Dalton said.