Christchurch seduces SailGP circus
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Nic 'Sailor Girl' Douglass

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Christchurch seduces SailGP circus

Nic ‘Sailor Girl’ Douglass has over 60,000 followers on social media of her postings as a world champion sailor and inveterate adventurer. Today’s mission? Shepherding local media around the SailGP base in Lyttelton.

In truth, Cityscape is more interested in the party on land than the racing on the water. “Have you had a chance to check out the city’s hospo offerings yet,” we ask. “No,” Nic says with an ‘I wish’ look. “My life is runways, freeways and slipways at the moment.”

Looking around, it’s easy to see why. The SailGP circus doesn’t just arrive somewhere, it invades. In the nicest possible way, of course. From the last stop, in Sydney a month ago, 84 containers of boats, gear, sophisticated computer wizardry, even whole buildings, were shipped to Lyttelton, assembled and made ready for the heaving mass of punters that poured into the former gravel pit at Naval Point for the weekend to witness SailGP’s New Zealand debut.

Nic may not have made it but a fair few of the 15,000 SailGP fans did hit the city over the weekend, adding to the hum of Art Show fans, Polyfest supporters and City2Surf and Le Race eventers that had the bars pumping.

Word is the revelry on board the floating palaces that dotted Lyttelton Harbour was also of bacchanalian proportions. The laden lighters heading out to service them were loaded to the gunwales. Seems they run on alcohol while in port.

Talking to members of the international media during the event, the whole experience of SailGP in Christchurch was quite different to other city venues. A media centre overlooking the harbour and race course was “the best yet”. Also cool was that the whole city seemed to know the event was on – you don’t necessarily get that in Singapore or Sydney.

The ultimate test of success, though, is always the same – did the paying customers give it the tick? Absolutely. There didn’t even seem much chagrin at being beaten by Canada in the final. Hey, Canada has a Kiwi at the helm and we beat the Aussies!

All eyes now shift to the SailGP grand final in San Francisco in May. Whoever wins, the party returns to New Zealand in March 2024, this time in Auckland. They’ll be hard pressed to match what Christchurch and Lyttelton Harbour delivered for the legions of sailing fans who showed up, and the millions of viewers who tuned in around the world. Stunning scenery, sparkling waters and a city that knows how to party!

Photos: Mark Wilson


Word on the street

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