Sailing will be coming home when the fleet arrives into Auckland, Race CEO Knut Frostad said on the eve of the Race Village opening.
"All the stopovers of this race are different but sailing to Auckland is a bit like if you’re a footballer and you get to play at Wembley" - Knut Frostad, Volvo Ocean Race CEO
Auckland mayor Len Brown will cut the ribbon and declare the Race Village open at 0900 local time tomorrow, marking the start of 11 days of festivities in the City of Sails.
The Volvo Ocean Race is making its return to the Auckland for the first time in 10 years, and Frostad -- a four-time competitor in the race -- said the city had a special place in the event's 38-year history.
"All the stopovers of this race are different but sailing to Auckland is a bit like if you’re a footballer and you get to play at Wembley," Frostad said.
"People are very enthusiastic in the other ports but this is sailing coming home. The fans are genuine, they really care about the sport and they have been following the race for months.
"You can ask almost anyone on the street about the race and they could tell you a lot about it. I met someone today who remembered me from three races ago. The sailors appreciate that kind of recognition."
The race has visited Auckland on eight occasions since the first edition in 1973 but this is the first time it has been back since 2001-02.
Frostad said New Zealand and its fans had an important part to play as the race grows globally.
"When you want to grow a sport and take it into new territories you need to bring the core fans with you because they are the ones who will educate the new world," he added.
"I’m very enthusiastic about being here in Auckland. It’s going to be a fantastic stopover.”