Stage “rigging” has taken on a whole new meaning at the Civic Theatre in Auckland last week. The sails from KZ1, the yacht with which the Mercury Bay Boating Club challenged for the America’s Cup in 1988, were unfurled and photographed in all their glory by the New Zealand Maritime Museum’s Digitisation Project team.
KZ1 (formerly known as “New Zealand”) was acquired by the museum in 1990 and is currently on display at the Auckland Viaduct. The sails (all 20 of them) have, however, been in storage for more than 30 years, hidden from public view.
Maritime Museum collections specialist, Nicholas Keenleyside, says this is a common scenario in the museum world. “In most museums, a large part of the collection is not on display at any one time due to space constraints, exhibition requirements or the condition of the objects themselves,” he says. “Digitisation plays a key part in making collections accessible to the public and researchers online.”
While most of the museum’s collection can be photographed on a table in a studio, the KZ1 sails posed a big challenge because they’re, well... big. The yacht’s mast was a whopping 48 metres tall and the sails comprised a combined area of 1,600m2.
The sails needed to be fully unfurled in order to be photographed and the Civic Theatre, along with the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre at the Aotea Centre, have proven ideal locations. “On reflection, it was quite appropriate to be undertaking this project in a theatre because, when you think about it, the America’s Cup races are all spectacles - they are performances,” says Mr Keenleyside.
Pictured is the KZ1 gennaker sail partially unfolded on stage at the Civic Theatre in Auckland.