In 2019 the remarkable multihull Beau Geste sailed into New Zealand and set a new race record in the country’s most famous yacht race. It completed the 119 nautical mile course, which starts in Auckland and finishes in Russell, in just 5 hours and 37 seconds, leaving yachting commentators asking if this was, finally, the unbreakable record for the iconic race.
From 930am Friday morning (tomorrow) 170 yachts of all shapes and sizes will line up off Devonport Wharf in Auckland for the start of the 40th edition of the PIC Coastal Classic.
And while Beau Geste looks set to keep its name on the top of the record books, there are records in the divisions for smaller boats that have been in place since as far back as 2005, which are ripe for the taking.
Top line honours
A scan of the fleet shows it’s almost definite that a multihull (catamaran or trimaran) will take line honours in 2022. Competitor Ed Ayre owns the trimaran Lucifer which won the race in 2019 on line and handicap. If victory doesn’t go to one of the ‘frighteningly quick’ bigger multis such as Apache (Erle Williams, NZMYC), Cation (Graeme Catley, RAYC) or Romanza (Dougal Love, RNZYS) he says there are several smaller boats –
Timberwolf (Liz Alonzi, NZMYC) , Exodus (Ed Crook, WBC) and Crazy Train (Matt Middleton, NZMYC) – that could do the job.
Only one monohull (a boat with a single hull and keel) has taken line honours since 2009 and in the absence of any large high-tech ocean racing keelboats or supermaxis, line honours will almost certainly – but not definitely – go to a multihull this year.
Division 1a: the grand prix 50 footers
There are four grand-prix fifty foot pure race yachts entered in this year’s event that are likely to be the first home of the keelers. Yachting commentator Suellen Hurling of the sailing website Live Sail Die says that these four boats will be fully optimised and in full race mode, and that it’s hard to pick which amongst them might win. “When it comes to short course harbour racing Mayhem (Harry Dodson, RNZYS) is the boat to beat, but once you stretch your legs a bit further it could be any of those 52s. To have a local boat Kia Kaha (Chris Hornell, OCC) get line honours would be fantastic and sweet victory for them. V5 (Brian Petersen, RNZYS) has just had its rig restepped, and Wired (Rob Bassett, RNZYS) will be on-form and is in great shape ahead of the Round North Island.”
The fifth entrant in this division, the Martin 55 Equilibrium (Graham Matthews, RNZYS), is a little different. “Equilibrium is a floating palace,” says Suellen. “They will be cooking a roast dinner downstairs but will still be right up there near the front of the fleet.”
Despite being serious race machines with the latest technology onboard and highly skilled crews, to achieve a a race record in this division they would need to beat the time set by the supermaxi Alfa Romeo in 2009of 6 hours and 43 minutes – which requires an average speed of more than 17 knots, considered unlikely except in fully optimal conditions.
Division 1B – the 40s and the comfortable 50s
Stepping down in size, Division 1B has 28 entrants and is dominated by forty footers. Suellen predicts great racing between the Melges 40s Checkmate (Aaron Young, RNZYS), Clockwork (Steve Mair, RNZYS), Sassinate (Mikayla Plaw, RAYC) and Menace (Howard Spencer, RAYC) – but as very light, carbon boats with canting keels, only with the wind behind them and in the right conditions. The two Ker 40s, Zephyrus (Matt Cole, RNZYS) and Carrera (John Meadowcroft, RNZYS), and the Cape 40 Mr Kite II (Nathan Williams, RNZYS), will also be strong contenders in this division.
“The Ross 12 Pretty Boy Floyd from Buckland’s Beach Yacht Club does a lot of racing, and it will be interesting to see how it goes against the Westhaven boats,” says Suellen, who also says to watch out for the more cruising orientated 50s like Quintin Fowler’s Rum Bucket in this line up along with the stunning Verdier 40 Vixen which won the Yates Cup on PHRF with four crew onboard, the Sayer 12 Wasabi, which is building up to a Hobart race, and Sassinate, which is a very well prepared boat that has trained hard.
Titanium, Fez and Urban Cowboy are also race proven boats with new owners.
Unfortunately, any of these boats that are over 12.19m (40’) will also need to beat Alfa Romeo’s 2009 winning time to see their name in the record books.
Division 2 – a favourite is hard to pick
Boats in Division 2 can aim to break the race record set ten years ago by the Elliott 35 Crusader for monohulls under 12.19m. To do this they will need to finish in less than 10 hours two minutes and 51 seconds, requiring an average speed of more than 12 knots.
“You can’t go past the big pink Alcatraz (Jack Richardson, RNZYS) – not only is it a spectacle on the line, it’s big pink and bright, fantastic, and they like to win,” says Suellen.
She says that Simon Manning’s Kaizen (RAYC) is also a fast boat that is one of the line honours favourites in this division but Boogie Flash, from BBYC, is an unknown as it doesn’t do a lot of sailing with Westhaven boats that make up the biggest part of the fleet. She also cites Peter Schiska’s Force 11 (RNZYS), which set a new record for the Young 11 class of 12 hours and 44 minutes in 2019, as a very well sailed boat, and suggests keeping a weather eye on Frenzy (Morgan Brodie, TYPBC), which is sailing up from Tauranga for the race.
The race will be a significant one for Elliott 12 Total Recall (WBBC). Skipper Olivia Christie will be freshly off the plane having competed in the ILCA Women’s World Championship.
Waka (RNZYS), owned by Oratia resident Sam Cremer and sailed with a crew of four, is known as a quiet achiever and is likely to put in a solid performance. “The Waka is faster than her size implies,” says crew member Andrea Hawtin.
Divisions 3-5 – a cross section of Kiwi classics
There are 27 ‘mid fleet’ racers in Division 3, a mix of smaller lightweight race boats and coastal sailing war horses that will host their crews in style and seek out records in the category for monohulls under 10.66m.
One of these is Ariki (Andrew Barnes, RNZYS). Built in 1904 by Logan Brothers, Ariki dominated Auckland racing for thirty years. Ariki is by far the oldest boat in the fleet.
The modern classic, Ilex (Sefton Powrie, RNZYS) is relatively much younger, being launched in 1970 and recently sailed by Sefton around the coast of New Zealand for enjoyment.
The Young 11 Legacy (Ryan Wiblin, RNZYS/SSANZ) is expected to be very competitive as it prepares for the Round North Island in 2023.
Division 3 also welcomes back Lew Anne (PYBC) an 11m ferro yacht weighing 13 tonnes that was built over a thirty year span from 1965-1995 by owner Dave Harding in his garden at home. 77 year old Dave believes that after 61 years associated with Lew Anne that this is his year to win the Coastal.
In Division 4, current Stewart 34 class record holder Playbuoy (RNZYS) is looking promising with new owner Guy Pilkington fresh from winning the NZ Matchracing Championships and ready to hone his competitive edge against the unstoppable Stewart 34, Pelagian2 (Kurt Boyle, KCC) and a pool of similar sized yachts including Irene Muirhead’s recent purchase Bellatrix (LBYC), Farr 1020s, expect some fireworks from the modified Ross 930 Pepe sailed by an experienced crew(Stephen Horner, RYC) and the Townson 34 Shimmer (Ben Freedman, SSANZ).
Suellen says the three SR26 class entrants Rocky (Luke Judge, SSANZ), Space Station (Jack O’Halloran, BBYC) and T-Rex (Daniel Leech, SSANZ) will have their own race within a race in Division 5 – as will the four Young 88 entrants.
“War Machine will hit the start thinking they have it in the bag, but beware The Babe. The rivalry is huge between them,” she says.
The smallest boat to ever enter the PIC Coastal Classic – the 6.5m Black Hornet (Laurie Wager, RYC/SSANZ) is also in this division.
Rounding out the fleet are divisions for four solo entrants, eight double handed crews, and a Cruising Rally for those that prefer to do it in style including use of the engine if needed.
“The great thing about the Coastal is that a lot of boats come out of the woodwork. They don’t do a lot of other racing, so they are unknown. But the PIC Coastal Classic is a rite of passage, a bucket list race, and it’s hard to pick what will happen on the day,” says Suellen Hurling. All sailors will already be avidly checking the various weather forecasts, with most at least hoping for a good Southwest breeze, and dreaming of a Southeasterly.
Zoe Hawkins, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credits Suellen Davies, Live Sail Die
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