The 2016 Bay of Islands Sailing Week is shaping up to be an international affair, as the regatta's popularity continues to grow overseas.
Already one of the most popular events on the New Zealand yachting calendar, the annual Bay of Islands Sailing Week regatta draws competitors from around New Zealand to Northland, to compete in three days of competitive and colourful yacht racing. But next January, Kiwi sailors will be up against a growing international contingent, who have opted to join in with what is now regarded as one of the premier regattas in the Southern Hemisphere.
The entry list on the regatta website www.bayofislandssailingweek.org.nz currently includes three internationally flagged TP52 yachts. The TP52 class is becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand, and the strong fleet gives TP52 owners from overseas a great incentive to compete in New Zealand waters.
Among the TP52s that have signed up to take part in the regatta are Hong Kong-based Karl Kwok's new TP52, Beau Geste 52, along with its recently launched sister ship Fox, constructed in Auckland for its US-based owner.
Regatta organisers were particularly excited to receive the first ever entry from China – Ark 323 – another TP52 sailed under the banner of Noahs Sailing Club in Shanghai. Tragically, crew member Sai Jun was lost overboard off the Vietnamese coast last month. However, the team have announced their intention to carry on, and achieve their goal of becoming the first Chinese team to compete in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race next month, following which it is expected they will sail to New Zealand to compete in the Bay of Islands Sailing Week regatta.
NZ's traditional yachting rivals from Australia are also represented in the Island Racing Division, with regular entrant First Picasso back to take on the locals again. The 57 foot Jeanneau yacht hails from New South Wales.
“It's great to see so much high profile international interest in the event” commented regatta spokesperson John Grant. “Not only does it make for even more intense competition, but it also puts Northland on the map as a world-class sailing destination.”
Spectacular international competition is also expected in the Millennium Cup – an annual superyacht regatta organised by NZ Marine – which is being hosted alongside the Bay of Islands Sailing Week.