The two 80-foot America’s Cup racing yachts operated by ExploreNZ in Auckland were originally used as prepatory boats for the New Zealand race team at Valencia. It’s just plain nasty as we head out into Hauraki Gulf. The rain is falling in a steady sheet and everyone’s pants are soaked through within 10 minutes.
There’s a good wind racking the boat over at 45 degrees at a brisk 12 knots on a close tack sailing upwind toward open sea. When you’re slicing through the water like this while trying to maintain a steady foothold, the adrenaline makes you relish the conditions, somewhat.
It's surprising to me that many of the locals sailing around us feel the conditions are perfectly acceptable for a leisurely day at sea. Dozens of boats pass by us in the grey haze while couples sip chablis and slice camembert under protective canopies, oblivious to the slanting rain.
As we tack quickly back and forth, everyone crosses from one gunwhale to the other when the boat sits at even keel during the few seconds it faces into the wind. In the slippery conditions, some people lose their balance teetering toward the water before others grab them by their rainjacket and hoist them up to the high side.
These multimillion dollar boats have some serious get-up-and-go, and you can feel the responsive hull itching to lean over in the gusty wind.
“Do you guys sail in any kind of weather?” I ask one of the crew.
“We’re used to getting a little wet,” he says. “This ain’t the Caribbean, mate.”