Stars of sailing to grace New Zealand’s largest regatta

Organisers are expecting one of the largest fleets ever recorded in the event’s 16 year history, with 99 boats entered to date for the CRC Bay of Islands Sailing Week, with more expected to sign up before racing gets underway next Wednesday morning.

“It looks like this will be our biggest year in nearly a decade, and probably the second biggest year ever, which is amazing,” said Regatta Chair Manuela Gmuer-Hornell. “It just goes to show that what we’re doing at Bay Week is something people really love.”

Among those hitting the water in boats of all shapes and sizes will be some well-known stars of New Zealand sailing.

In the multihull division, 70 foot trimaran MOD Beau Geste has added Team New Zealand hot shots Joe Sullivan and Guy Endean to the crew. The America’s Cup-winning sailors may just help Beau Geste turn the tables on their rivals Frank Racing, which narrowly beat her in the Coastal Classic yacht race last year.

In Division A, Olympic cyclist turned Team New Zealand sailor, Simon Van Velthooven, will be on board with Opua local Chris Hornell aboard his TP52, Kia Kaha. Far from having a unique advantage though, the crew of Kia Kaha will have to pick the shifts carefully, with opponents Georgia boasting renowned tactician and America’s Cup veteran Brad Butterworth on her team.

There will be plenty of action outside of the ‘Formula One’ divisions too, with the tiny 4.4m Weta fleet using CRC Bay of Islands Sailing Week as a training event prior to the Weta Nationals in March.

Aiming to be at the front of the pack will be Kerikeri-based Paralympic sailor Chris Sharp, who claimed Bronze in the single-handed Weta class at last year’s World Masters Games. Racing competitively against able-bodied sailors is a big part of the attraction for Sharp, who was left paraplegic after a motorbike accident.

“The Wetas are a handful for para-people to sail, but it’s possible, and the performance is fantastic. The beauty of it is we’re not restricted to racing against para-people. We just sail with the intent of winning because it feels natural to do so.” Sharp says.

This will be Sharp’s first CRC Bay of Islands Sailing Week, despite living locally, and he says he’s super excited about it, commenting: “I can’t think of anything more fun than doing a regatta with so many mixed classes all around, everyone racing their little hearts out.”

CRC Bay of Islands Sailing Week takes place next week with racing throughout the Bay of Islands over three days from January 24-26, starting at 10.30am each day and finishing around 4pm. There will be entertainment each evening from 4pm, at the North Sails and Hall Spars Marquee, located outside the Opua Cruising Club – all welcome.

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