Big Bay Area welcome for Team New Zealand
Team New Zealand claimed bragging rights as the America's Cup was officially opened in San Francisco yesterday.
The ceremony on the city's spectacular foreshore was full of typical American fanfare - plenty of red, white and blue, lots of speeches and no shortage of ticker tape.
The teams were introduced on stage separately and the Kiwis reckoned they got the biggest cheer "by far", helped by the performance by Maori cultural group Te Waka Huia.
A large crowd, including a fair smattering of New Zealanders, turned out for the festivities that coincided with Independence Day in the US.
Dean Barker won them over with some brief words on stage. Asked how the famous San Francisco Bay compared to the Hauraki Gulf, he smiled: "It's very, very close second. There's no place like home. But San Francisco Bay is spectacular."
The Kiwis proved popular at the autograph sessions.
"San Francisco has turned it on, there are thousands of people here. We can feel the vibe, we know it's on," Team New Zealand grinder Winston Macfarlane said.
Representatives from the United States Coast Guard's Colour Guard and the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps ushered in the American flag and the flags of Italy, New Zealand and Sweden.
The day was a chance for the four syndicates and regatta director Iain Murray to put aside their differences.
The cup ceremony featured a touching tribute to Artemis racing crew member Andrew Simpson who lost his life in a training accident by the Swedish syndicate in May.
That tragedy has cast a shadow on the event and the resulting safety recommendations that have been rushed through by Murray have split the syndicates on a couple of key issues.
Team New Zealand and Italy's Luna Rossa have protested moves to allow design changes on the eve of the event.
They argue the increased size of rudder elevators are a pe4rformance issue rather than a safety one.
Their protests are to be head by the International Jury on Tuesday - a day after the two challengers square off in the opening race of the regatta.