Now in its 16th year, CRC Bay of Islands Sailing Week is regarded as one of the premier yachting events in the Southern Hemisphere and this year, 102 boats have entered, ranging in size from 4.4m to 21m, making this the event's biggest year in nearly a decade.
The biggest event of its kind in New Zealand, the event, to be held from 24 to 26 January, was described by yachting commentator Peter Montgomery as “the best big boat regatta” in the country. The ethos of the regatta is one of all-inclusive and fun racing, where boats of all shapes and sizes can compete.
Racing takes place throughout the Bay of Islands, with smaller boats racing inshore, and larger, faster boats racing in the outer Bay. The 'Island Racing' divisions sail longer courses using the area's spectacular natural features and islands as race marks.
New for 2018, the Kawau Rally, departing Opua on the morning of Saturday 27 January, will provide a fun way to round off the regatta for those sailing back down to Auckland and beyond.
The regatta attracts a huge range of boats and sailors from around NZ and overseas. This year, crews will include America's Cup sailors Guy Endean, Joe Sullivan, Simon Van Velthooven and Brad Butterworth, local Paralympian Chris Sharp, and Volvo Ocean Race veteran Brad Marsh.
Frank Racing versus MOD Beau Geste
These two towering trimarans have a history of closely fought battles. With the help of Jimmy Spithill, Simon Hull's 60 foot Frank Racing narrowly beat Karl Kwok's 70 footer MOD Beau Geste in the Coastal Classic race in October.
The tables may have turned, as Beau Geste has reportedly enlisted the help of America's Cup winners Guy Endean and Joe Sullivan. Will their all-star crew win them retribution after their Coastal Classic defeat?
Angry Dragon versus Ghost Rider
In the Sport Boats Division, a long awaited match-up between two pocket rocket rivals will result in one of them walking away with bragging rights. Locals will no doubt be cheering for home team Stu Wilson and his crew on Angry Dragon. But they'll have to be on top form, as they'll be up against America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race winners Phil Jameson and Brad Marsh on Ghost Rider.
Paralympian and World Masters Games medallist, Chris Sharp, loves the fact that his Weta allows him to race competitively against able-bodied opponents. Will he make it to the top of the podium? He believes he can – and so do we.
As 2018 will be the regatta’s 16th year, a ‘Sweet 16’ birthday party has been organised for the evening of Thursday 25 January, with a 60s dress-up theme, live 60s music, presents, cake and nibbles.
Evening entertainment, food and drinks can be found in the North Sails and Hall Spars Marquee, at the Opua Cruising Club.
The headline sponsor is CRC, and further support is generously provided by North Sails, Hall Spars, NZL Sailing Foundation, Mount Gay Rum, Harken and Zhik NZ. Dozens of volunteers from the local area and as far afield as the South Island, Australia and even Scotland also lend their time and energy to make the regatta a success each year.