SailGP has been welcomed to Whakaraupō, Lyttelton Harbour in an official pōwhiri, held at Rāpaki marae, the ancestral home of Te Hapū ō Ngāti Wheke Rāpaki, guardians of the harbour and surrounding whenua (land).
The ceremony welcomed the league’s foreign teams and international staff with speeches and waiata (hymns) in front of the marae (meeting house).
Formalities were followed by kai - or a feast - with eating and drinking signifying the end of formal rituals and transformation of all manuhiri, or visitors, into extended members of the hapū. Athletes arrived by traditional waka flotilla and were joined onshore by Te Hapū ō Ngāti Wheke Rāpaki and local partners.
SailGP’s head of event and commercial director in New Zealand Karl Budge said the ceremony was ‘incredibly special’.
“Our culture is all about welcoming, so for us to make sure we’ve had a meeting, exchanged our greetings and formed a relationship of trust and respect is very important.”
The ceremony means that all SailGP’s teams, athletes and wider staff will ‘always be protected’ in Aotearoa New Zealand, he added.
“It’s a really big deal for Ōtautahi, Christchurch to be able to come and share that culture and ultimately welcome SailGP formally to New Zealand - it’s something pretty special.”
New Zealand wing trimmer Blair Tuke added: “A pōwhiri is a real special thing that we have in Aotearoa and I think it would have been a pretty unique thing to be a part of for all the international athletes and wider SailGP staff.”
Home team driver Peter Burling said the ceremony had ‘set the tone going into the weekend’.
“It’s our first home event and to see how it’s unfolded and to only be a couple of days away is something everyone is incredibly excited about,” he said. “So many friends and family and New Zealanders have been getting behind the team, which means a heap to us - we’re excited to get racing.”
The ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch will take place on March 18 & 19, with racing kicking off at 15:00 NZDT. Full broadcast information and How To Watch details are HERE.