Dean Barker and Grant Dalton jokingly talked about wearing balaclavas for their return home after they lost the deciding race of the America's Cup in San Francisco.

Eight days later, they were met by thousands of loud, enthusiastic Kiwis, eager to show their support as strongly as possible.

It took the team nearly 15 minutes to make it from the back of Shed 10 on Queens Wharf to the stage as crowds draped in New Zealand flags shook their hands.

Cheers broke out on a regular basis as Ngati Whatua elders and Auckland Mayor Len Brown paid tribute to them, and as Dave Dobbyn belted out Loyal and Welcome Home.

Those cheers were nearly deafening when Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said the government would back another challenge.

"There was a reluctance from a sporting point of view to come home at all, perhaps originally - Dean and me talked pretty quickly afterwards whether we were going to get the balaclavas and the rocks to crawl under," said Dalton, Team New Zealand's boss.

"But no team has come back and had a reception like this when they don't win. I want to be able to look back later in my lifetime and just remember today, and the way people are towards us."

One of the thousands present, Alan Franklin, said the team deserved the support, despite not winning the cup, remembering in particular the race called off due to a 40 minute time limit when Team New Zealand were well ahead.

"They deserved this support. They put on such a good show, and if the time limit had been more realistic they would have won it."

Barker, the boat's skipper, said the level of support was unbelievable.

"It's just not something you ever really expect or anticipate, to have that sort of overwhelming support of what we've done, and even though we didn't win, just the continual support that we've had, it's very, very humbling," he said.

"I can honestly say I am proudest I have ever been to be a New Zealander."


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