Rod Stewart recorded a video version of his 1975 hit "Sailing" as a surprise serenade for the America's Cup teams in Auckland, New Zealand, this weekend.
"Having been married to a Kiwi (New Zealander) Rachel Hunter, and having two children that absolutely love their Kiwi home, it's become a special place to me," Stewart, 76, tells PEOPLE. "I've always loved being there not only because of the sunshine but also because the humor is similar to that of the British."
Recorded from his home in London and beamed onto the Te Wero big screen in Auckland's America's Cup Village, the British pop singer's intent is to promote unity and support for the 36th America's Cup competitors and to their fans around the world. Stewart even encouraged New Zealanders to join him in a sing-along intended to reach nearly 200 countries.
"We think Rod performing 'Sailing' really captures the notion of welcoming back international visitors when the time is right," says Tourism New Zealand's Interim Chief Executive Rene de Monchy. "His song captures this notion with its poignant and fitting lyrics, as well as Rod's connection to New Zealand."
Stewart, who has been holed up in London during the pandemic, is excited about his virtual performance of "Sailing." Being unable to travel, he believes that it "reminds us we're all in this together."
Despite "Sailing" being a perfect fit for the America's Cup, Stewart admits he hasn't been on that many sailboats in his life although he loves the sea. "I do love being near, on, and looking at the ocean, and have family holidays on boats each year if I can afford it," he tells PEOPLE of his experience on maxi yachts three times when he was in Australia and New Zealand.
"I find that a difference from being on yachts to sailboats is that sailing is not conducive to suntanning. If you stand up at the wrong time, you get hit with a big lump of wood on your head," says Stewart, who has been wearing a cast from an ankle injury while in London and his sports interests of any kind have been put on hold until it's fully healed.
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"I have a bad ankle injury which I suffered from being tackled by my 15-year- old son," he says. "My football days are over, although I can still kick a ball when needed."
Although Stewart also has homes in Los Angeles and Palm Beach, he hasn't been able to visit them since the beginning of the pandemic and quarantine. "I love them all, but my favorite place is Los Angeles which is where I spend most of my time," he says.
"I haven't been able to go back because of COVID, and I've been restricted to England, which I'm not complaining about. But because I can't leave, I haven't seen three of my children and my granddaughter in a year which is heartbreaking," he says.
He is anxiously awaiting the time he can travel again as it is one of his passions. "My tours needed to be rescheduled, so I'm looking forward to visiting many of my favorite places when it is safe to do so," he says.
Meanwhile, Stewart will have to be content with his "Sailing" lyrics: "I am sailing/ I am sailing/ Home Again/ 'Cross the sea/ I am sailing/ Stormy waters/ To be near you/ To be free."
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