The most successful ever Whitbread/Volvo round the world racer, Steinlager 2 returned to New Zealand today, and is berthed in the Viaduct Harbour, alongside her predecessor, Lion New Zealand.
Auckland turned on a brilliant Autumn day, clear blue skies, and just the lightest of winds. Steinlager 2 rounded North Head at 12.35pm about 22 years after she had departed at the start of Leg 3 of the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World Race. Over 100 boats were on the water to give the round the world racer a sailing welcome home, and witness a poignant moment in New Zealand sailing history.
Steinlager 2 is still the only boat to have won all the legs of a round the world yacht race, winning the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World race against some very keen competition, and taking all six leg trophies.
Today was a poignant moment for many, with five of her crew on the water to see Steinlager 2 come home. A time of intrigue for their children who were not yet born when 'Big Red' raced around the world, and they got to see the boat they had all heard so much about for so long.
A time of sadness that her skipper, Sir Peter Blake was not present, in body, to see his great boat come into the Viaduct Harbour for the first time.
A time of awe to think that when Steinlager 2 left New Zealand the Viaduct Harbour was the cesspit of the Auckland waterfront, and now it is the central jewel.
And a time to reflect once again on the contribution of Sir Peter Blake to Auckland and New Zealand conceiving the magnificent Viaduct harbour, skippering Steinlager 2 and of course winning the America's Cup, of which Big Red was the launch platform.
A time of gratitude, to her owner, or rather custodian Stefan Detjen (SUI), who said his dream right from the time he acquired Steinlager 2 was to bring her back to New Zealand. It was he who had her repainetd in her original colours and has sailed her in many of the great regattas and events in Europe before she left to return to New Zealand in November 2011.
A time of anticipation too, for the new Trust that has been formed to run both Lion New Zealand and Steinlager 2 as sail training yachts out of Auckland and provide an experience for so many young people that they would not otherwise have had.
On Sunday, both boats will be open to the public, at the Viaduct Harbour for a coin donation to the new Trust.