NZL 14 to set sail again

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An Aucklander’s bought a former America’s Cup trial yacht languishing in Queenstown Bay as a training boat for disadvantaged youth.

NZL 14 has been moored permanently off the Queenstown Gardens for the past seven years.

Built for New Zealand’s 1992 America’s Cup challenge, and skippered by future Cup-winning sailor Sir Russell Coutts, she was bought by Auckland-based Sail Queenstown Ltd in 2005.

The company used the racing yacht for tourist excursions on Lake Wakatipu, but stopped operating in 2010.

Auckland-based businessman Geoff Hunt, who’s bought the piece of NZ sailing history for an undisclosed price, confirms he’ll keep her on the lake.

He intends setting up a charitable trust which will aim to “help disadvantaged youth find a new way forward” by teaching them to sail.

“My job is to open up opportunities for kids who don’t always get a second chance in life.”

Having left school himself without school certificate, Hunt says his early sailing experience helped turn his life around.

Hunt’s especially targeting youngsters from around NZ with development disorders like Asperger’s, which his son Ryan has, and autism.

He says the boat will need about six months of maintenance before she’s fit to sail the waters of Lake Wakatipu again.

“I think it’s just run-down. I’ve had 22 boats – I understand keels, masts, rudders.”

He estimates the restoration job will cost about $100,000, but he’ll seek business sponsorships – from paint companies, for example – to help out.

Hunt says he’s also restoring a kauri sloop just north of Auckland, also to help at-risk youth.

With NZL 14, however, he’ll also offer her to the Wakatipu Yacht Club to give youngsters big boat experience.

Club commodore John Stalker says: “From the club’s perspective it’s just great to see the boat back on the water and being used again.

“It’s a beautiful boat and it’s a shame to see it sitting there wasting.”

Club members will welcome the opportunity to sail her every now and again, he says – “particularly some of the kids”.

During Sail Queenstown’s five years operating NZL 14 on Lake Wakatipu, she covered more than 12,000 nautical miles and took about 10,000 passengers.

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