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Kaumatua Welcomes Americas Cup Challengers To Auck

'You are thrice welcome!' -- Sir Hugh Kawharu

You are thrice welcome! With those words, Sir Hugh Kawharu, elder of Auckland's Ngati Whatua o Orakei Maori tribe Greeted the challengers for the America's Cup at the official opening Ceremony of the Louis Vuitton Cup in Auckland, today.

In an eloquent speech in Maori and English, Sir Hugh drew parallels about the seafaring exploits of his Maori forebears and the sailing skills of the 11 challenging clubs. With a smile, he also reminded them that his people controlled all the waters of the Hauraki Gulf where the racing will continue over the next four months.

Earlier, David Elwell, chairman of the America's Cup Challenge Association (ACCA)represented the challengers in the Powhiri or welcoming ceremony.

Elwell stolidly stood his ground without flinching as a fierce young spear-wielding warrior performed the wero (challenge) to divine whether his itentions were peaceful or warlike. Elwell retrieved the taki (dart) thrown down at his feet and signified that he had come in peace. With that mportant piece of ceremony completed, challengers filed into a temporary 3,000-seat outdoor auditorium to be serenaded by Maori singers, the Auckland choir, and the Army and Navy Bands.

As the teams that had marched in the parade arrived by land, the Ngati Whatua Maoris arrived by sea, with 80 warriors paddling their waka (war canoe) Mahuhu ki te Rangi. After they landed, the Auckland Maoris greeted a Tongan voyaging canoe Te Au O Tonga that had just completed a 14-day voyage from Tonga.

Kiwi sailing television personality Peter Montgomery compered a ceremony that combined welcomes from the Mayor of Auckland, the Governor-General, Sir Michael Hardie Boys and New Zealand mountaineering and adventure icon Sir Edmund Hillary.

The climax of the evening came as syndicate representatives mounted the stage for the official drawings for the first two round robins conducted by Yves Carcelle, President of Louis Vuitton. Young America learned that it will meet America True in the first match of the first match of the first race of the Louis Vuitton Cup. Pacific neighbours Nippon Challenge and Abracadabra 2000 from Waikiki, Honolulu, will mate up in the second match, while the Swiss and the Italians will join battle in the third match. French skipper Bertrand Pace will again meet Dennis Conner and Paul Cayard will sail against Pedro Campos.

Race 1
1st Match Young America vs America True
2nd Match Nippon Challenge vs Abracadabra 2000
3rd Match FAST2000 vs Prada Challenge
4th Match Le Defi Francais vs Stars & Stripes
5th Match AmericaOne vs Spanish Challenge
BYE Young Australia 2000

Race 2
1st Match Prada Challenge vs The Nippon Challenge
2nd Match Spanish Challenge vs Young America
3rd Match America True vs AmericaOne
4th Match Young Australia 2000 vs Le Defi Francais
5th Match Abracadabra 2000 vs FAST2000
BYE Stars & Stripes

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