New Zealand Packs Calendar Around 36th America’s Cup


Yacht Style looks at the array of regattas, competitions, meetings, parties and other events scheduled around the 36th America’s Cup, at the same time as the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland celebrates its 150th anniversary. 

By Marieke Derks

After the 2017 win in Bermuda, Emirates Team New Zealand parades the America’s Cup by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (also below), the trophy’s new home

Good news arrives from New Zealand as I am interviewing Linda Berry, Managing Director of The Superyacht Gathering. The New Zealand government has not only decided to welcome the America’s Cup Teams and their boats into the country but also to open country’s borders again for superyachts intending to do maintenance or refit in New Zealand.

Contrary to Australia, where sea borders remained open for visiting superyachts and their captains and crew throughout Covid-19, New Zealand opted for a stricter approach to fight the virus. 

The announcement came as a big relief to New Zealanders, America’s Cup teams and their global fanbase. It was also encouraging for yacht owners, guests, crew and sailing enthusiasts planning to follow or attend the plethora of sailing events in New Zealand from this December through next March.

Aaron Young, Chair AC36 and Vice Commodore of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, the America’s Cup holder, comments: “The RNZYS was certainly very happy to hear of the border restrictions allowing AC36 teams and is working on the superyacht visiting process.

“These visitors to New Zealand will bring a welcome boost to our economy. Aside from adding to all the maritime events in 2021, the greater marine industry will welcome yachts for refits and maintenance given the expertise New Zealand has in this field.”

Peter Busfield, Executive Director of NZ Marine, New Zealand’s marine industry association, was also delighted with the decision. 

“Normally between 30-40 superyachts cruise in New Zealand for the high season, but this time we had a total of 160 wanting to join us for the events and further cruising. And although it is hard to predict how Covid-19 will evolve over the next months, the decision to allow AC36 teams is a great step towards making this all happen.” 

The Kiwis have lined-up an impressive array of 20-plus waterbased events and a large number of on-land events from December to March – before, during and after the 36th America’s Cup when Emirates Team New Zealand will be defending the trophy they won back in 2017 in Bermuda by beating defender Oracle Team USA. 

“Sailing in New Zealand is an inclusive sport and leisure time activity,” says Michelle Khan, Major Event Organiser at the RNZYS and a keen sailor herself.

“Together with sponsors, people in the yachting industry and many volunteers, we are creating a series of events to everyone’s liking. We are celebrating our ocean, the freedom of boating and excitement of being on the water. Don’t forget, it’s also the club’s 150th anniversary.” 

This country of great natural beauty has sailing in its veins. Many famous Kiwi sailors learned to sail on Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, the setting for the America’s Cup and many of the other events. Almost every populated area in New Zealand is close to water. The country has 15,000km of coastline (the ninth-longest of any country), 600 islands and 3,820 freshwater lakes. 

Khan explains there are boating events planned for everyone: for sailors with and without boats, owners of everything from small sailing dinghies to megayachts, and captains, crew, spectators, and any other sailing and water enthusiasts. 

“By removing barriers and sharing our love for the sea and for boating, we would like to involve as many people and hearts as we can,” Khan says. “It does not get better than this!”


With so much happening in so many places, here’s a round-up of the main events. 

After building, testing and refining their boats in their home waters, the challenger AC36 teams can now ship the yachts and teams over to New Zealand for further preparations. The 23m carbon-fibre AC75 boats are handled by a crew of 11 sailors with a maximum weight of 960-990kg. Twin canting T-foils sticking out like spider legs raise the hull out of the water and a mast of 26.5m above deck carries the max 400sqm sail surface that can take the boats flying over water up to 50 knots (almost 100kmh). Due to Covid-19, the World Series in Auckland in December will be the first time they race their spectacular, elegant foiling monohulls. The Prada Challenger Series in January and February will produce the final challenger to take on defender Emirates Team New Zealand during the Finals from March 6-21. Best of all, Young says, “the racing will be able to be viewed from the shore and the city itself, as it’s happening in Auckland Harbour”.

 The America’s Cup features the 75ft AC75 foiling monohulls

A festive day for all, the Ports of Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta is held each year to celebrate the birthday of the City of Sails, with watercraft of all shapes and sizes putting to the water across the Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf under paddle, sail and steam power. This will be the 181st edition of this much-loved event.

Organised by the Royal Prince Albert Yacht Club together with RNZYS, the 1,250nm category 1 ocean regatta starts in Sydney Harbour on January 30 and finishes in Auckland Harbour in time to help the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron celebrate its 150th anniversary. It’s open to offshore cruising and racing yachts, superyachts and ocean racing multihulls, and also incorporates a rally for cruisers. 

Billed as the ‘world’s first superyacht fishing competition’, the event takes place 120nm (220 km) north of the AC36 venue in scenic Bay of Islands, one of New Zealand’s most popular cruising grounds. A sporty and fun event for yacht owners and guests who will go out on fishing tenders for the winning catch.

The 23rd edition of the famous Millennium Cup regatta is run from the historic village of Russell, gateway to the Bay of Islands. Organised by the Russell Boating Club and NZ Marine, the Millennium Cup is the world’s southernmost regatta and among a series of global superyacht regattas for yachts over 25m. The iconic Duke of Marlborough Hotel is the beating heart of the on-land part of this prestigious regatta. Some fun competitions are not to be missed, like the Tawera Rum Barrel Challenge skiff race.

February’s New Zealand Millennium Cup in the Bay of Islands is among several exciting superyacht events held around the 36th America’s Cup in early 2021; the Tawera Rum Barrel Challenge skiff race is part of the Millennium Cup

Held just days ahead of the AC36 Finals, the RNZYS-organised superyacht regatta will take place in the heart of the Hauraki Gulf, offering more brilliant sailing, amazing scenery and Kiwi hospitality as part of the club’s 150th anniversary celebrations. After a welcome function on February 23, there are four days of racing and a final prizegiving party.

Auckland’s most fun regatta has 300 dinghies and foiling boats on the water and is open to anyone, including hangers-on, yacht crew, superyacht owners and guests, and who knows … maybe some of the foiling boats that did not make it to the finals?

A festive day for all, the Ports of Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta is held each year to celebrate the birthday of the City of Sails, with watercraft of all shapes and sizes putting to the water across the Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf under paddle, sail and steam power. This will be the 181st edition of this much-loved event.


For lovers of sailing history, there are two classics regattas on the menu. The RNZYS International Classics Regatta includes local and international classic vessels, while the 100th Lipton Cup could see Mullet Boats (traditional fishing boats) of all sizes coming out of the woodwork. The trophy was donated by Sir Thomas Lipton and was crafted by the same silversmith as the America’s Cup.

Good things happen when people truly connect, care and share. That is the adage of The Superyacht Gathering. Linda Berry, Commercial Director and co-founder of the event, says: “We offer an intimate, small-scale event for people who want to make a difference and do good for our oceans and coastal communities.” The three-day event starts with a meet-and-greet evening, features a symposium in Auckland, and concludes with a joint breakfast with RNZYS giving an AC36 presentation, then a leisurely lunch at Waiheke Island. “It’s so different to other superyacht events,” Berry says. “It almost feels like a group hug.”

Designed by sailors for sailors, the Auckland Regatta is a joint initiative between the RNZYS and Bucklands Beach Yacht Club. The regatta includes multiple divisions and features windwardleeward racing and longer harbour courses. For sailors who don’t have their own boats, the Pacific Keel Boat Challenge also returns and is an invitational fleet racing event for 10 leading yacht clubs, classes or crews.


Here are some key contacts for enquiries:

  • If you wish to visit with your yacht and attend any events, Duthie Lidgard, Director of Superyacht Support and RNZYS-endorsed agent for AC36 events, advises to contact him as early as possible to discuss berthing, itineraries and cruising
  • To learn more about chartering in New Zealand, Fleur Tomlinson, Charter Director of 37 South, has itineraries and yachts available for charter before, during and after AC36 and related
  • One of the more exciting New Zealand-based charter options isThe Beast, a 39m camouflage-hulled catamaran explorer with over 370sqm of living space and diverse itineraries. Contact:


Marieke Derks, Zara Tremlett and Bert van Muylwijk form the Superyacht Services Guide’s author team for Asia, the Indian Ocean and Australia. The SSG features personal recommendations from professional yacht Captains and crew for the best services used around the world not only to run a superyacht but to receive owners and guests, and to live and work on board as crew. The quick-search online directory is regularly updated, fast-tracking users to the most reliable, efficient and effective services available globally. Some Captains say the SSG is ‘by far the most used publication on board’.

The original article first appeared in Yacht Style Issue 54 (Charter Issue 2020) – see below: 

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