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Feasts and new friendships the flavour of the 2024 Auckland Captains’ Long Lunch

Rivergate Marina & Shipyard teamed up with Catalano Shipping Services New Zealand to host the 2024 Auckland Captains’ Long Lunch at Homeland Dining Room, superbly located on the waterfront at Viaduct Harbour in the heart of the marine precinct.

A diverse group of 14 international Captains, industry proponents, and agents, along with Steve Fisher, Alex Binks, and Sarah Toxward from Rivergate, gathered for an appetising lunch featuring the freshest local seafood and regional produce.

Restaurateur Peter Gordon is the co-founder of Homeland Restaurant and cooking school. He focuses on “bringing the kai of Aotearoa and The Pacific” to everything he cooks. Peter has spent over 30 years promoting New Zealand ingredients on the world stage and views Homeland as a “food embassy.”

“It is the ideal venue for a large, social lunch,” said Rivergate’s Steve Fisher. “Open, well-lit, welcoming, with commanding views of the Harbour and hundreds of yachts.”

As Steve explained, “Considering the three-year hiatus, this was a very well-attended event. This year’s get-together was unique because of the number of Captains who didn’t know each other, and their feedback indicates they were extremely grateful for the opportunity to get off their vessels and spend some time with fellow Captains.”

Alex Binks, Rivergate Marketing Manager, reported that during the lunch, guests commented that they rarely have time off to relax and get to know their “neighbours on the marina”.

“They may know the yachts and some of the skippers’ names, but when they actually meet, especially over a relaxed, informal lunch – or in this case, a feast for all the senses – there’s that instant connection and shared respect that leads to easy conversation.”

The menu was as diverse as the group assembled and included delectable share plate entrees comprising wood-roasted lamb ribs, raw Trevally in coconut and coriander with chilli ginger jelly, followed by a choice of mains including grilled lamb, fish of the day in green apple and coconut sauce, or lemon-spiced cauliflower with hummus, eggplant, and brown butter macadamias.

Desserts were equally mouth-watering; share plates of Pavlova with passionfruit curd and stone fruit (a delicacy of long-disputed origin between rivals Australia and NZ), Solomons Gold chocolate mousse, and vanilla panna cotta with fresh strawberries and raspberry sorbet.

Over lunch, conversation topics ranged from world events and their impact on the charter market, solutions to crew shortages and training, the recently released crew environmental guidelines, and a sharing of their experiences and favourite anchorages in the South Pacific.

Held just days after the 2024 Millennium Cup, there was also a toast to the winning superyacht, the 59-meter Perini Navi, Perseus^3, whose Captain, Burger van der Walt, accepted with gracious appreciation.

Burger, who started as Chief Officer as part of the planning and build team, has been Perseus^3 Captain for 11 years and says he has a very personal connection to the yacht.

“I have been lucky enough to work under two amazing owners, and since the start, we’ve been busy traveling, cruising around the world. She is a good sailing boat and a great charter boat – the complete package.”

With no “home port”, Italian-built Perseus^3 has notched up 32,000 nautical miles.

“The current owner was a previous charter guest and has owned the boat for three years. He really loves the boat, and last year, he spent six months on board. Since 2021, we have cruised from Spain to Patagonia, Cape Horn, Costa Rica, Mexico, USA, then to the South Pacific, New Zealand, and now, Australia.”

After two weeks at Airlie Beach exploring the Whitsunday Islands, the itinerary will take them to Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Seychelles, Madagascar, Cape Town, and then back to the Mediterranean for the yacht’s 10-year refit.

This peripatetic lifestyle is one Burger thrives on and embraces with the attitude “life is short – see as much of the world as you can!”

The stopover in Auckland was the ideal opportunity to attend the Rivergate Captains’ Long Lunch and meet fellow Captains.

“Day-to-day, everyone does their own thing, so it was nice to put a face to a boat.
This was my first Captains’ Lunch, and I was very impressed,” said Burger.

“I so rarely speak with other Captains of the boats next door, so it was very nice and definitely worth it! We’ll stay in touch.”

Isla McKechnie, Director at Albatross PR, described the lunch as “another stand-out event from the Rivergate team”.

“It gave the industry a chance to strengthen trans-Tasman bonds, sharing the insight which comes from working within the southern hemisphere cruising grounds which present their own unique opportunities and challenges,” she commented.

“It was also a lovely opportunity to meet with captains in Auckland following a busy summer of events and catch up on their highlights over a beautiful lunch at Homeland. A huge thanks to Steve Fisher and his team who are always welcoming, hospitable, and eager to talk all things industry together.”

Gareth Wilson, Silo Marina Manager, expressed his gratitude, stating, “I really enjoyed the event, and it has pushed our own need to build strong relationships with our visiting crew.”

Duthie Lidgard, Managing Director of Catalano Shipping Services New Zealand, said the combination of “excellent food and drinks and good company” made the event a success.

“It was a very interesting group – a great mix of Captains from all over the region, superyachts, and charter yachts,” Duthie observed. “They spoke very highly of the cruising grounds around New Zealand, especially with such good weather over summer.”

He continued, “Getting this chance to actually meet, maybe after years of working alongside each other, was a highlight. There was a great atmosphere because we’re all there for the same reason – to enjoy good conversation over a wonderful lunch, discover more about each other and how we can support the superyacht fleet visiting the Asia-Pacific.”

Steve Fisher added, “Most of the Captains at the Auckland lunch were back from cruising the South Pacific and on their way to Australia. There’s a real enthusiasm for the Asia-Pacific among owners and charterers.”