William and Kate in Auckland to duke it out
LAURA WALTERS, MICHAEL FIELD, SIMON DAY AND KEVIN NORQUAY
The Duchess of Cambridge has left her prince in her wake - taking the helm and whitewashing the duke on Auckland's Waitemata Harbour.
The royals were generous with those who waited for them in pouring rain at the Viaduct Basin before they set out, but they gave each other no quarter on the water this afternoon.
It was the duchess who came out on top in both races.
Catherine raced with Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker and Prince William with team manager Grant Dalton.
Upon their return to the Viaduct a clearly delighted Kate, who the was victor, only reluctantly left her boat after a long conversation with Barker.
In fact, her husband had to arrive to get her. He walked around to her boat, met her there, and they briefly held hands in celebration.
Unexpectedly, the couple only raced twice and then took a cruise past the Maritime Museum, startling the people who were there.
Earlier on the water, it was a spectacular demonstration of tacking and cornering with a good wind as they battled each other on rival America's Cup boats.
The rain stopped and the sun came out over the harbour for the racing.
A large contingent of boats followed, but police boats surrounded the yachts for protection.
William and Catherine were both in the thick of it, taking turns at the wheel.
Earlier, when Catherine heard she would be sailing with Barker, she grinned and gave a double-fist pump.
After the race, the couple boarded a Sealegs, an amphibious boat, for a trip up to Westpark Marina in Hobsonville.
Driving out of the water, they where greeted by hundreds of admirers.
Among them was a mother and her four adult daughters who had travelled to London to see Kate and William's wedding in 2011.
They said meeting him today was a dream come true.
"It was wonderful. He was very casual and relaxed and he spoke to us longer than I thought he would," said Lynley Knight.
"I got a handshake, I went in for a kiss but he didn't see," said Kath Legg.
They had prepared a banner that read "WE CAME TO YOUR WEDDING" and William was drawn to the sign.
After making a New Year resolution to go to the Royal Wedding, the four women had slept in a two person pop up tent in St James Park in London to secure a good vantage point.
"He remembered us, he remembered our faces," joked Bronwyn Burrowes.
Mother of the three women, Daphne Rabbitts, is a committed royalist and admirers the selfless way the royal family carry out their duties.
"They fulfil their role with dignity and respect. They never asked to be Royals. They lift us from our everyday life," she said.
For one young pupil of Hobsonville Primary School it was his second important meeting today.
"I got to see the prime minister (this morning). In my class he got to talk to me about my learning," said Blake Crossley, 7.
"(Now) I'm here to see the Royals, I want to see the prince and the princess," he said.
It had been a pretty cool day, Blake said.
Another royalist, Margret Harris, 86, had last see the royal family in 1983 when the Queen mother visited New Zealand.
"I think they are really good. I am very happy with the royal family. If I didn't come I'd regret it," she said.
Before the couple left they were presented with a miniature version of the Sealegs amphibious craft as a gift to Prince George from the company.
And then they were into their car and off to the Whenuapai airport heading back to Wellington, waving to the adoring crowds as they drove away.
MEETING THE PEOPLE
Most excited to meet the royals in Auckland's Viaduct Basin was a small child, Lili Reynolds, aged eight, who had won a meeting with the duke and duchess through the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Lili told reporters she said to the royal couple: "Pleased to meet Your Royal Highnesses", as she handed over a posy of flowers.
The duchess asked how her treatment was going, to which Lili replied, "good".
The royals did not let pouring rain stop them meeting and greeting Kiwis who lined the Viaduct Basin to see them race.
They arrived to massive cheers from the crowd and proceeded to shake hands with as many people as they could. Children holding Union Jacks and flowers were among the crowd, lined up six deep in places.
After a brief walkabout outside the Team New Zealand base, William and Catherine spoke to Barker and crew before making their way down the gangway towards the yachts as rain bucketed down.
The royals posed for photos with Barker and Dalton on the stern of luxury yacht Imagine, before going inside to prepare for their contest.
Meanwhile, a small aircraft flew across the sky, towing a banner saying, "Time for a Kiwi head of state" – an aerial advert organised by New Zealand Republic. It went unnoticed by most of the thousands of people there.
Conditions, between 8-10 knots, were perfect for the two or three match races, Emirates Team NZ chief operating officer Kevin Shoebridge said.
Both yachts would have crews of young sailors on board, though experienced sailors Dalton and Barker would be in charge.
"We've got to be pretty safety conscious," Shoebridge said.
He said there would be no jockeying around at the pre-start as for a proper America's cup race, just a fleet start.
The duke and duchess are sports mad, and extremely competitive.
Kate has more sailing experience than her husband.
Still, some yachting premises held true.
"The start's always important, but they'll be sailing under shifty conditions with tide movement," Shoebridge said.
The difficulty for crowds at the basin trying to see the race is that the yachts look so much the same, that from the shore it will be unclear which of the royals is in front, or ultimately victorious.