Hilary Barry is in her element. The stiff San Francisco winds are blowing the TV3 news anchor’s cropped blonde hair every which way, as she keeps New Zealand abreast of each agonising moment of the America’s Cup, and she hasn’t had a full eight hours sleep in weeks.
But while Hilary is enjoying every second of the adrenaline-fuelled competition that’s had Kiwis glued to their screens for the past three weeks, she knows that every time a race is lost, or postponed, there are two people who have a more vested interest in seeing the Cup come to an end than most.
Because while they understand that it’s their mum’s job to report the country’s biggest news, and they are as caught up in the drama of the races as any Kiwi, her sons, Finn (13) and Ned (11), can’t wait for her to come home.
“I miss my children,” says Hilary (44), whose boys are currently being looked after by their dad, Mike, in the family’s Auckland home. “They’re 11 and 13 now, and are better at taking care of themselves, and my husband is very competent and organised at getting everything done at home. But as a mum, as a parent, you know it’s a lot easier when there are two of you to get things done.”
“I can honestly say I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else apart from right here, in the action of the America’s Cup, doing what I’m doing. The Kiwis are going wild! But I really miss the cuddles. That’s the hardest part – not getting my cuddles.”
But while Hilary is hankering for some time with her boys, she’s as excited about the Cup as any fan.
“Being here watching this competition is the most incredible experience. I consider myself very lucky,” she says. “Everyone has been ready for us to win since last week – those times the race is called off because of the wind limit are gutting,” says Hilary, who is just as funny, casual and extremely likeable in person as she is on TV.
She willingly confesses that, despite her job reporting the news, she’s given up trying to pretend she’s not a bit biased.
“It’s impossible – I’m so caught up in it, and of course I want New Zealand to win. We’ve been ready to party for a while!” she admits. But she’s not the only one.
“[Warehouse founder] Sir Stephen Tindall rented a thousand New Zealand flags, which he put up everywhere throughout the village!” she laughs.
She’s been on the “shop floor” at the sailing base for the duration of the Cup, so you’d be forgiven for thinking Hilary is suffering the impact of 14-hour days and a lack of sleep. Not even close. “There’s no time for a nana nap!” she smiles.
“We’re up at about 2.30am NZ time, then, after a quick brush up, we dash out of the door and that’s us, on air, editing or researching, until we’re done. But it suits me – that’s my nature. There are plenty of people out here who are starting to feel the effects of adrenaline fatigue, but I really don’t – I just don’t work that way.” Well, almost.
“Okay, maybe I lost five percent out of the tank last Thursday, when wind stopped the race about 30 seconds before the start. Absolute disappointment,” she admits.
Hilary’s schedule sounds utterly exhausting. Perhaps she gets a couple of minutes to relax in the make-up chair?
“Gosh, no. I do my own make-up, and I’ve always had my hair short, so it’s nice and easy.”
While there’s very little downtime for Hilary and the crew (food is snatched on the run, usually sandwiches and snacks), one of her favourite places is the corner of the media room where all the Kiwis congregate.
“We try and find a moment to get in there and grab a few Pineapple Lumps!” she says.
Hilary has done a great job keeping the nation updated on the world’s oldest sporting cup, but she says it’s more of a pleasure than a chore.
“I absolutely love it. As a family, we watch a lot of sport, so, for me, it’s important to translate all the technical speak so people understand what’s actually going on,” she says.
“When the Team New Zealand boat almost tipped over in the eighth race, there was a lot of talk about hydraulics and all this stuff, but basically, what happened was a bit like when the flaps on an aeroplane wing get stuck. That’s why it was so scary.”
“But Dean Barker is incredible – he is so calm under pressure, and the dedication to his craft is remarkable. He is truly the most amazingly professional man.”
While Hilary knows she won’t be going home to her boys until the Cup is well and truly over, she’s already plotting her spot at Auckland’s Viaduct for the 2016 event.
“I’ll be there – with bunting on!” she laughs, refuting any suggestion that it could be elsewhere. “There are a lot of different aspects of doing a job like this, but coming to San Francisco and reporting on this event – I reckon I’m pretty lucky.”