When the world’s largest aluminium yacht glided into Whangārei Harbour yesterday, Whangārei Airport’s runway came to a standstill.

With the triple masts standing at around 62.5m high, more than 20m above the runway, they created a temporary obstacle for arriving and departing aircraft.

However, Whangārei Airport manager Mike Chubb said the vessel passed quickly so the scheduled departing aircraft had only a five minute delay.

“Fortunately the team at Port Nikau are on to it and let us know in advance.”

The masts belong to Sea Eagle II which has been moored at Opua while the crew finished their quarantine which began at sea.

On her maiden voyage from The Netherlands, Sea Eagle II reportedly belongs to Taiwanese billionaire businessman and philanthropist Samuel Yen-Liang Yin.

She is captained by local Tod Thompson who also captained the owner’s previous yacht Sea Eagle I.

Thompson has lived at Whangārei Heads since 1974 and also in the Bay of Islands where, along with friends, he built the schooner R. Tucker Thompson and named it after his father.

Upon Sea Eagle II’s arrival in the Bay of Islands last week, she was met by the schooner. She was also met as she entered the Whangārei Harbour by friends of Thompson’s on their respective yachts.

The 81m long, 12.5m wide schooner left Amsterdam in November and was carrying out a long sea trial, said Thompson, who was joined by his wife and a co-captain from Russell with a crew of 13.

“We’re testing the systems,” he explained. “It’s quite a sophisticated boat with a lot of systems. Most of them are working well but some need attention.”

He said crew had been keeping a list on the voyage and the vessel would be moored at Port Nikau for around six weeks or more while warranty work was carried out locally.

“My wife and I and one of the co-captains were quite keen to come here with it so we had some degree of influence over it coming here. We’re very appreciative to be here. New Zealand is the place to get this work done.”

He was last in his home town before Covid and, while managing the work, planned to spend time catching up with family.

Sea Eagle II is a world-voyaging private boat built for pleasure and Thompson had sailed her at up to 22 knots. Along with the crew of 13, she hosts 10 guests and a range of sea toys such as jet skis, dinghies and kayaks.

With masts of that height, a pilot was needed aboard while passing airports, such as Whangārei and also in Tahiti, to lend their local navigational knowledge of the harbour.

Chubb said the airport had been alerted several times over the last few years of a vessel of significant height’s passing as both larger and a higher volume of super yachts were arriving in Whangārei. This was the largest he had seen.

This article originally appeared on the New Zealand Herald and has been republished with permission