A 100 foot record setter, a sistership to Emirates Team New Zealand's new boat, and the return of an old friend fondly nicknamed the ‘pink pig'. The race from Auckland to Russell at Labour Weekend in October is going to be one for the record books, in all senses of the word.
Alfa Romeo – the 100 foot supermaxi owned by Kiwi expatriate Neville Crichton – took her 141st line honours victory, and set a new race record in America's toughest yacht sailing event, the Transpac (LA to Hawaii) race in July before returning to Southern Hemisphere waters to make its preparations for the HSBC Premier Coastal Classic.
She'll be racing the clock in the 119 nautical mile HSBC Premier Coastal Classic, hoping to beat not only the monohull record set in 2005 by fellow supermaxi Zana Konica Minolta (8hr 29min 50sec) but also the overall race record set in 1996, of 7hr 20min 51sec.
But Alfa Romeo will not be the only one with an eye setting a new best ever time. Six-times HSBC Premier Coastal Classic winner, the boat that set that record back in 1996, Split Enz, is returning to New Zealand for the first time in ten years.
Now owned by Georges Auteret of Noumea, Split Enz – dubbed the ‘Pink Pig' – is virtually the same as it was in 1996, although Georges has done structural work to stiffen the boat, adding two more beams between the main and the rear beam, removing the front beam, and extending the boards by 500mm to improve its upwind performance.
With few boats to race against in Noumea, Georges and his crew, Erik Codron, Guillaume De Guio and Martin Fisher are looking forward to competing with other fast multihulls for the opportunity to defend the record and prove themselves over Taeping, winner of the 2007 and 2008 editions but with a race best of only ten hours.
Another new rival but with the ability to perform very well is the 52 foot keelboat under construction at Cookson Boats in Auckland. Georgia is the sixth in the family of ‘Georgia Racing' yachts owned by Auckland Barrister Jim Farmer, and is modeled on Emirates Team New Zealand's TP52 designed by Botin Carceek, and currently leading the MedCup Series in Europe. The new Georgia is optimized for IRC racing and the HSBC Premier Coastal Classic marks the beginning of a challenging race calendar for boat and crew.
Another new entrant to the fleet is G-Whizz, a fifty footer owned by Australian businessman Greg Patten and optimized for two-handed sailing. The boat will be sailed two handed from Adelaide to Auckland as part of Greg's qualifying miles for the grueling Melbourne to Osaka, and it will participate, fully crewed, in the HSBC Premier Coastal Classic before returning to Australia.
“This is a dream fleet with the latest and fastest yachts competing”, says David Griffiths, HSBC CEO New Zealand. “It's going to be an exciting race – one that HSBC Premier is delighted to be a part of. We are looking forward to it.”
The 119 nautical mile race was inspired by speed record attempts by powerboats dating back to the 1920s, and in 1982 a challenge was issued to all keelboat and multihull owners to join this non-stop race from Devonport Wharf in Auckland to the bar in Russell, pushing boats and crews as hard as they dared. These days it finishes off the end of Russell Wharf, but the party in Russell is no less anticipated.
Sponsors of the event are HSBC Premier, Orb, Jucy Rentals, Safety at Sea, Predictwind.com, Harken, Donaghys Southern Ocean, Southern Pacific Inflatables, Sail NZ, Mount Gay Rum, Steinlager, Sunday Star Times, Yamaha Motors NZ, De Walt, Dirty Dog and Trade a Boat.
The race website, www.coastalclassic.co.nz, contains more information about the race, including a list of boats currently entered.