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Experience The Stories That Steered The Rise Of Our Yachting Nation


Aucklanders and visitors to the city can now limber up for next month’s America’s Cup matches on the Waitematā - by designing their own high-performance super-boat in the revamped Blue Water Black Magic gallery at the New Zealand Maritime Museum on Hobson Wharf, along from Luna Rossa Prada’s team base.

The Design a Boat interactive game draws on the spectacular developments in sailing technology and design that have occurred during the 25-year period of Team New Zealand’s and Emirates Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup campaigns. Players first select hull, mast, sail, and foil designs. They then receive a report on their skills, or lack thereof.
Aptly, the game sits under NZL32, aka Black Magic, which in San Diego over the course of the 29th America’s Cup challenge in 1995 trounced competition and brought the cup to New Zealand.

Blue Water Black Magic gallery celebrates Aotearoa’s domestic and international yacht racing history, through stories of female Māori crack sailors, nineteenth-century boatbuilding on the shores of the Waitematā, the suburban backyard boat construction of the 1960s, and design and engineering innovations. Visitors can also touch and scrutinise the yachting componentry that now produces the fastest sailing monohulls on earth, to be seen from this month racing on the Waitematā Harbour in the 36th America’s Cup event.

The gallery also nods to the greats - notably Peter Blake, who occupied a central role in New Zealand’s America Cup campaigns in the 1990s, and went onto become an environmental activist.

Other additions to Blue Water Black Magic include an interactive diorama incorporating found objects. Entitled The Owl and Cat’s Fantastical Voyage, it’s the work of artist Sarah-Jane Blake, who follows in her family’s tradition of advocating for the well-being of oceans. The work is included in a newly installed family trail, in which children and the curious roam the gallery looking at exhibits and paraphernalia, and answer questions about the weight of the America’s Cup trophy, the connection between honeycomb and material now used in cutting-edge hulls, and the circumstances under which a carbon-fibre mast might snap.

In one corner of the gallery, trail-followers can also sniff pine tar, which combined with rope is an old-school waterproofing material. It was stuffed between wooden planks in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when kauri was the wonder material used to build fast boats, that were exported to Australia and beyond. The stories in Blue Water Black Magic make it clear that Aotearoa’s boating—and boaties’—expertise and brilliance goes way back.

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