Manly resident Mike Pignéguy has been a sailor since childhood, is a member of Gulf Harbour Yacht Club and will be at the helm of Sky City’s luxury launch right through the America’s Cup. He shares what it’s like to be up close to the action.
“If you believe all the hype about the America’s Cup, we (the charter boat people) are all going to get rich. Having run charter boats through two America’s Cups in Auckland, I know very well that this isn’t the case.
It’s amazing to realise that, after years of effort by many people to create a waterfront in Auckland that would better suit the needs of locals, it has taken a series of yacht races to make the changes.
Unfortunately, the key word has been ‘superyacht’, and the waterfront infrastructure has been designed accordingly. The public purse has been well raided to create these facilities and for the most it will be the owners of superyachts that can afford to use them.
Still, the waterfront ‘tidy up’ has improved our international image. Any hint of commercial boating activity has either been minimised (fishing boats and ferries) including moving the Sealink ferry terminal from Wynyard Wharf into the entrance of Westhaven Marina, the largest and busiest marina in the country.
Thousands of people would like to get out on the water to witness the racing, yet there have been no extra facilities built for charter boats to pick up passengers from Downtown. Charter boats operating out of the Viaduct Harbour are subject to restrictions when loading supplies or leaving and entering.
Having said all that, there’s nothing quite like being out on the course on a good day with thousands of other boats watching these amazing yachts fly. Although, for me, it’s not like the old days when the boats were actually sailed and there was time to appreciate their manoeuvers, but it is still a great atmosphere out there.
If you don’t have a TV on board, you can be left wondering where they are and what’s happening, as things change very quickly! If you find a good spot to anchor, you have only a few seconds of actual visual contact before reverting to the TV screen.
The Harbourmaster’s speed limit of 5 knots for spectator craft was initially thought to be too severe, but in practice seems to have worked out. It has improved people’s behaviour and made it safer for smaller craft, due to the very much reduced wakes which, during previous Cup events, were a major hazard.
Our beautiful Hauraki Gulf and Waitemata Harbour are arguably the best venues for the America’s Cup. The Prada America’s Cup World Series was great to watch, especially on the course that was easily visible from North Head, and that has been a great precursor to the excitement of the Prada Cup that got underway on January 15 and runs until February 22. Finally there will be the finals of the Cup itself, March 6 to 21. Hold onto your hats for that one!”