Team NZ get heroes' welcome in Auckland
Fans who have given Team New Zealand a heroes' welcome in Auckland have been told unreservedly: the Government will support another America's Cup challenge.
Skipper Dean Barker, boss Grant Dalton and the rest of Team New Zealand were greeted rapturously by a crowd which had gathered since early this morning to see the defeated challengers.
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce told the faithful: "This country and this government stands ready to be part of the next America's Cup.
"Bring us a proposal and we will work with you on it."
It took nearly 20 minutes for the team to push through the hugs and high fives of the thousands gathered and make their way to the stage at Shed 10.
Dave Dobbyn welcomed the crowd with a performance of Loyal, before the team was called into the venue with a powhiri.
Dobbyn then performed a rendition of Welcome Home for the team, accompanied by the emotional crowd, before Auckland mayor Len Brown spoke.
"We were with you on every tack, we were with you on every jibe," Brown said.
"You united us. You represented us superbly, with skill, honour, and integrity."
Barker then told the crowd: "I'm the proudest I've ever been to be a New Zealander."
"We can never thank you enough for the support and it definitely gives you the strength to go on," he said.
"I just want to acknowledge the amazing love and support from the families.
"We really hope there is another strong Team New Zealand," Barker said.
Dalton acknowledged the teams sponsors, taking a moment to particularly thank the Government for their support.
"They're really good blokes. They're actually really nice people," he said.
Fans said they were proud of Team New Zealand despite their eventual 9-8 loss to Oracle Team USA.
Phillipa Wood, 19, said: "Their sportsmanship and the way they conducted themselves over there was amazing," Phillippa said.
Her sister Nicole, 21, said: "It's a bit windy but we came prepared."
The sisters are both sailors and Phillippa, who sailed Cook Strait solo in an optimist, has aspirations of one day being a part of the team.
"It would be really cool to have a female in the crew, maybe as the skipper or in a tactical role," she said.
Making a 6.30am start were Ken Campbell and Merelene Walters, both 70, who had driven up from Tauranga.
The pair became famous in Shed 10 after spending nearly a week in Auckland as the competition was dragged out by Oracle's remarkable comeback.
"We're just here for the day, but that's what we said last time," Walters said.
There was no way the pair weren't coming back to Auckland to welcome the team home.
"We can't miss this, we have got to cross the T's and dot the I's," Campbell said.
The crowd swarmed into Shed 10 at 11:30 to screams of "we love you team New Zealand!"
As the masses hustled to find a seat, an impromptu national anthem broke out in the thousands on the waterfront at Auckland's Queens Wharf.