Team NZ’s big­gest fan

The Horowhenua Mail - - FRONT PAGE - GE­OR­GIA FOR­RESTER

Team New Zealand’s self­pro­claimed ‘‘big­gest fan’’ is tak­ing cel­e­bra­tions to a new level, get­ting Peter Burl­ing’s name and a pic­ture of the team’s cata­ma­ran tat­tooed on his shoul­der.

Fox­ton Beach res­i­dent Gary ‘‘Gazza’’ Ste­wart said he was ‘‘so proud to be a Kiwi’’ when Team New Zealand won back the Amer­ica’s Cup.

‘‘Well No 1, I’m a very mad sports­man, and I’m a very proud Kiwi.’’

The 72-year-old had been up at 5am on the dot each morn­ing to watch his favourite team race against Or­a­cle Team USA.

He would like to think he was ‘‘Team New Zealand’s big­gest fan’’, but said there were thou­sands of pas­sion­ate sup­port­ers.

Al­though not a yachts­man him­self, Ste­wart said he loved all kinds of sport, and he and wife Bon­nie had been sup­port­ers for decades.

Ste­wart threw a party for Tues­day’s fi­nal race, with about 20 peo­ple turn­ing up in the early hours of the morn­ing to sup­port the Kiwi team.

A pow­er­cut just be­fore 5am al­most dis­rupted their plans, but they man­aged to watch the first race at a neigh­bour’s house and ‘‘cel­e­brated with corks pop­ping’’.

Ste­wart said the team had done well to bring the cup ‘‘back where it should be, where it be­longs’’.

The fol­low­ing day he got ‘‘Amer­i­cas Cup Is Now New Zealands’’ and a small pic­ture of the yacht tat­tooed on his left shoul­der.

The re­cent ink-etch­ing sits op­po­site Richie McCaw’s name, which is tat­tooed on his right shoul­der.

McCaw was the 72-year-old’s first tat­too, which he got dur­ing the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

His wife had ini­tially thought it was a stick-on, but re­alised a few days later that McCaw’s name would be there for life.

De­spite his shoul­ders be­ing dec­o­rated, Ste­wart said he had never been that in­ter­ested in ink.

‘‘I’m not re­ally a tat­too man, I’m just a keen sports­man.

‘‘I don’t know what prompted [the tat­toos], to be hon­est.’’

Even though some peo­ple called him a ‘‘silly old bug­ger’’ for get­ting them, he said he was just so proud to see New Zealand do­ing well on the world stage and he wanted to share his en­thu­si­asm for sport.

‘‘We are just such a very small coun­try of 4 mil­lion peo­ple and we are very sports-minded.

‘‘I think this young Peter Burl­ing has so much tal­ent. From a young grasshop­per he was very good.’’

He hoped Burl­ing would be proud of the tat­too.

He wasn’t think­ing of get­ting any more, but said that could change, de­pend­ing on how New Zealand sailed at the next re­gatta.

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