A number of Tauranga sailors have made the most of record breaking conditions in this year’s PIC Insurance Brokers Coastal Classic, sailing to victory in one class and another into a new car.
Taking part in the 119 nautical mile race from Devonport to Russell, Tauranga’s all-female entry Smudge took out the all-women category, crossing the line just ahead of last-minute entry Rage – the only other all-female crew to take part.
The competition during this year’s PIC Insurance Brokers Coastal Classic. Photo: Ivor Wilkins.
The Tauranga-based Farr 9.2 skippered by ‘Women on Water’ member Rhonda Ritchie – came through to finish in a respectable 18hrs: 27mins: 24sec.
Held during Labour Weekend the annual event proved beyond doubt that New Zealand weather can be a fickle beast.
After the long-range forecast was read at last Monday’s race clinic, there was an audible groan from competitors at the prospect of a long, slow slog of a race in a light and ever-lightening breeze.
But the reality was a race of record-breaking proportions that saw Team Vodafone Sailing take a staggering 28 minutes off their previous race record, setting a new time of just 5 hrs: 13 mins: 21 sec.
In addition, three class records were also broken this year, with the Farr 11.6, Ross 930 and Young 11 records all falling by the wayside in near-perfect sailing conditions.
The record-setting boats were Expedition Coppelia (Farr 11.6), No Worries (Ross 930) and Fineline (Young 11).
Following the colourful, and often chaotic, mass start off Devonport Wharf, the Coastal Classic requires entrants to negotiate the northeastern coast past Kawau, Whangarei and Tutukaka to Cape Brett, before turning, often directly into the wind, through the outer Bay of Islands to the finish line off the town of Russell.
The course is pretty much straight line from Cape Rodney to Cape Brett, and can be a sprint or marathon, depending on the type of boat.
Headline entry Beau Geste, sailing under the banner of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, was the first monohull to cross the line in 7 hrs: 06mins: 42sec, just missing out on the current monohull race record of 6hrs: 43mins: 32sec.
But they still managed to beat rivals Giacomo to the line by less than three minutes, in what was a closely-fought battle all the way to the end.
In another nail-biting moment, 28-foot multihull Charleston very narrowly missed out on the under-30-foot multihull record, crossing the line just two minutes outside of the current record time of 07hrs: 58mins: 35sec.
Australian entry Morticia – a super-light 30-foot trimaran that has been described as “one of the fastest boats in Australia light weather” – was a strong contender for the win after Monday’s forecast.
But the heavier weather that eventuated must have slowed her down, and she finished seventh on line, after local multihulls Triple8 and Charleston, ensuring the Kiwis can hold their heads high again following last year’s race win by Team Australia.
The stiff sou-westerly breeze that resulted in numerous records being broken was also welcomed by many of the less performance-orientated boats taking part.
In a rare occurrence, not a single boat was still sailing for the finish by the cut-off time of 2pm on Saturday.
Even Calm - a slow-yet-steady Woolacott design, and the final boat to cross the line - finished well before the cut-off time, at 110.20am on Saturday.
Only four ‘Did Not Finish’ (DNFs) were recorded. All vessels and crews made it safely back to port, including the dismasted Grunt Machine, which was towed to safety by an NZ Police launch and the Coastguard.
In addition to the thousands of dollars worth of prizes awarded to the divisional winners at Saturday night’s prizegiving ceremony, sponsors also generously donated a bumper haul of spot prizes, including over $5,000-worth of B&G marine instruments and a Yamaha 2hp outboard motor.
Winner of the major spot prize Ross Currie – driving back home to Tauranga in a sporty new BMW with a 6-month pre-paid lease courtesy of PIC Insurance Brokers and Jerry Clayton BMW – was overjoyed with his win.