11 Apr 2014

Catherine sails to victory in battle of wills

9:41 pm on 11 April 2014

The Duchess of Cambridge had some fun on the water on Friday, defeating her husband 2-nil in a sailing battle on America's Cup yachts in Auckland.

The couple are about halfway through their nine-day tour of New Zealand and were welcomed by thousands to the City of Sails.

The Duchess of Cambridge teamed up with Dean Barker.

The Duchess of Cambridge teamed up with Dean Barker. Photo: POOL

Prince William takes the helm.

Prince William takes the helm. Photo: POOL

Prince William and Team New Zealand manager Grant Dalton squared off against Catherine accompanied by skipper Dean Barker. Upon meeting her husband back on shore, Catherine broke into a huge smile and said she was so sorry. For his part, the Duke joked that he'd been sabotaged.

Barker described Catherine as "very, very competitive", while Dalton said the future king had a feel for racing and did a good job on the water. Asked if he was a potential signing, he replied: "I'm not sure we can afford him though, might be a bit expensive. The insurance would definitely be a killer."

Prince William was expected to have the edge over the Duchess, having already sailed in one of the yachts in 2010 and earlier told Prime Minister John Key it would be "a bit of healthy competition".

Thousands of Aucklanders lined the wharves and streets near the Viaduct Basin hoping to get their only glimpse of the royals on their nine-day New Zealand tour.

Fans waiting at the Viaduct.

Fans waiting at the Viaduct. Photo: RNZ / Olivia Allison

The Duke and Duchess arrived to massive cheers. Children holding Union Jacks and flowers were among a crowd up to six people deep who waited for hours outside the Team New Zealand base.

The royal couple did a brief walkabout outside, speaking to Barker and crew members before making their way down the gangway towards the Team New Zealand yachts as rain bucketed down.

The Duchess was given some flowers by eight-year-old Lili Reynolds, who is undergoing treatment for a brain tumour and loves everything about the royals. She had always wanted to meet someone "royal and beautiful".

The Duke and Duchess finished the day's activities with a visit to Westpark Marina at Hobsonville before flying back to Wellington.

On Saturday, they will visit Hamilton and Cambridge and on Sunday will travel to the South Island making trips to Dunedin and Queenstown.

Maia Hunt offers a book to William, watched by her parents at Whenuapai air base.

Maia Hunt offers a book to William, watched by her parents at Whenuapai air base. Photo: POOL

Air Force walkabout

The sun finally came out on the royal tour as the couple touched down in RNZAF Boeing 757 at Whenuapai Air Base on Friday morning. They were greeted by Auckland mayor Len Brown, his wife Shan Inglis and RNZAF Air Component Commander Kevin McEvoy.

About 100 family members of the RNZAF Auckland base personnel, including members of the Orion crew recently returned from searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, welcomed the couple on to the base.

The first family to meet Prince William was the Rowlings. James Rowling, 9, talked with the duke about his desire to fly.

The Duchess met Allison Smith and her five-month-old son Ryder.

The Duchess met Allison Smith and her five-month-old son Ryder. Photo: POOL

"He asked me my age, and if I wanted to be a pilot - I do," James said. But not a helicopter pilot like the Duke. "The prince was a little upset James wants to fly the Boeings not helicopters," said dad Bill Rowlings, an officer in 230 Squadron.

Flight Lieutenant Andrew Fisher has just returned from searching for wreckage of flight MH370 and said the Duchess took much interest in his role. "She was interested in how we found it. It was intense flying, we flew around 110 hours in three weeks."

Maia Hunt, the six-year-old daughter of Squadron Leader Steve Hunt, presented Prince William with a present for his baby son. "I gave him a book for George, The Wheels on the Bus," she said.

The book was a New Zealand version of the classic children's book that William said he knew the words and actions to. "He thought it was for him. He said he would do the actions and make all the noises," Maia said.

Republic campaign

A plane towing a banner declaring it is time for a New Zealand head of state flew over Auckland Harbour where the royal couple were sailing on Friday. A spokesperson for lobby group New Zealand Republic said it was launching a campaign for a New Zealand head of state.

The spokesperson, who goes by the name of Savage, said while the plane flew over the harbour, the message was intended for New Zealanders, not the royal couple. He said Republic New Zealand would put out further details about the changes it is proposing later in the year.