Crew from the eight competing teams took part in the traditional Maori ceremony, to wish them farewell and a safe journey across the seas on leg 4 of the VOR
Under the strong sun this morning in Auckland, Volvo Ocean Race teams were welcomed into the ‘Ngati Whatua’ tribe’s village. Crew from the eight competing teams took part in the traditional Maori ceremony, to wish them farewell and a safe journey across the seas on leg four of the Volvo Ocean Race which starts this Sunday.
It was a chance for the sailors to experience some historical New Zealand culture, and also to be blessed for the next gruelling Southern Ocean leg, from Auckland to Rio de Janeiro. The members of the tribe were also pleased to have the opportunity to welcome round the world sailors into their community, to learn a little about yachting, and to bond men of the land with men of the sea.
At a secure distance from the village entrance, the sailors stood quietly, enjoying the view, admiring the entrance adorned with carvings, and waiting for the ceremony to begin. The silence was short-lived, as four striking figures in traditional dress of beaded skirts and feathered head dresses, charged towards the group, puffing and yelling and brandishing weapons. After a long Maori ceremony, a final song from the Ngati Whatua and a speech, skippers were given the chance to thank the tribe for their prayers and kind words.
Grant Dalton, skipper of Amer Sports One, thought that it was a great honour to be there, “The Volvo Ocean Race brings together cultures. We are a mix of nationalities and races but we all share the same bond, the bond of the sea. As a Kiwi, I am particularly proud to be here today, as the Maoris are the true history of my country.”
Assa Abloy skipper, Neal McDonald, enthused, “This is my first Maori experience here today, and it will be one of the best memories that I take from this race.”
Not known for their singing skills, the teams subsequently gave an impressive performance of a song penned by Keith Leggett, of Auckland City Council, called ‘Around the world’, a beautiful tribute to the meeting between the tribe and sailors. This signalled the final stage of the farewell, and a ritual salute, ‘the hongi’, ensued, the sailors touched noses and shared breath with the Maori elders. This salute indicated that the crew had become one with the local people.
The enjoyable morning became more poignant when the crew were given pendants, carved out of beef bone, and designed as part of the arts programme run within the marae. Engraved with the tribal fish-scale pattern of the Ngati Whatua, they will serve as a long-lasting memory of the day the Maoris bid farewell.