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The PIC Coastal Classic Yacht Race from Auckalnd's Devonport Wharf to Russell Wharf in the Bay of Islands, is New Zealand's premier fleet yacht race and has been held annually at Labour weekend since its inception in 1982.

The original concept was the inspiration of Roger Dilley from the then Auckland Multihull Sailing Association (now the NZ Multihull Yacht Club) loosely based on the speed record attempts by power boats dating back to the 1920's over the same course.


Roger's original idea developed into being a full on drag race with the first boat into Russell being the overall winner. AMSA then put the challenge out to all multihull and keeler owners to join this non-stop race to the bar in Russell, push their boats and crews to the max and overall have an exhilarating fun weekend.


Twelve intrepid skippers and crews took up the challenge and when Roger put the final magic touch to the race by dreaming up the name - the "Coastal Classic" had arrived. The fleet was divided into one multihull division and several monohulls, by length but no handicap. Boats ranged in size from the Peter Williams' 62 foot Fidelis down to Alex and Mathew Flynn's 24-foot trimaran Gulf Chariot.


The inaugural Coastal Classic Yacht Race began in light conditions at 0900hrs Saturday October 23rd with monohull Fidelis leading the fleet past North Head. Multihulls Krisis and Sundancer got into the action as the winds freshened once out of the inner harbour with their match racing and fierce competitiveness from there onwards setting the scene for all Coastal Classic races to come.


Krisis, skippered by Duncan (Cookie) Stuart was the first boat into Russell and his record of 18 hours was not broken for 4 years, although the armchair experts thought it would be easily broken. Andrew Wallace on his Farr 11.6 keeler Hawkeye waved the flag for the monohulls by finishing a creditable 50 minutes behind the first two speedy multis.


Headlines and quotes from 1982

  • "Where do you sleep on these things?" - "You don't!" (Experienced offshore skipper Ray Hasler asks Cookie Stuart of Krisis )

  • Tense Battle for Honours - (8 O'Clock News)

  • Multi-hulls show way - (Russell correspondent)

  • Krisis scoots in 3 hours clear - (NZ Herald)

  • Sundancer goes wrong way - (NZ Herald)

  • A Thrash from Devonport to Russell - 'Terrific! In the middle of Piercy channel at midnight. The foam on rocks is only yards away. Ray, couldn't we just go about now.....pleeease?' (Shane Kelly from Seaspray onboard Krisis')


In 1984 the trimaran Mokihi took line honours in a time of 18 hours 49 minutes. Conditions were 'consistent' but the tailenders ran out of breeze after Brett.Three all-women crew took part that year, including a team aboard a 1910 cutter called Maeva. The first boat in, sailed exclusively by a female crew, was awarded the Te Hoe o Wairaka trophy. Carved by Maori carver Te Hau Tutua, it is named after Wairaka, daughter of the chief of the Matatua canoe who succeeded in beaching the canoe after it had accidentally been set adrift with only one woman onboard.



Just under 100 yachts entered including the brand new Split Enz, a 12-metre catamaran designed by Ron Given and owned by syndicate of Neil Strong, Jason Price and Rudy Dekker and she took the race record. The first jackpot prize was awarded and the AMSA Trophy for the race record was presented for the first time.


1986 - TOP CATS

Now called the 'Wayne Wilkinson Insurance Coastal Classic,' the 1986 race was one for the multihulls with a south easterly shift pushing the cat's and tri's past the keelers in front of them after 12 hours of beating to windward. Split Enz (Jason Price) and record-holder Afterburner were first in to Russell. The first keeler home was Longfellow, followed by Ice Fire, NZ Natural and Starlight Express.



Peter Blake used the 1987 race as an opportunity to gain multihull sailing experience, aboard the boat that won the first ever Coastal Classic, Krisis. Blake told 'Nautical News' that he learnt the value of white paint about the bows and gunwales of the floats to assist night vision, and changed the colour scheme of Steinlager 1 accordingly. Krisis placed eleventh in this race, which was won by Afterburner. The 45 foot catamaran slashed the race record by almost five hours with a time of 12 hours and 39 minutes. Afterburner, designed by Malcolm Tennant, averaged 13 knots for long stages of the race and hit over 20 knots. Conditions were north-north east, approx 15 knots, with flat seas and twelve boats broke the race record that year.



Krisis, damaged during a storm at her Hobson Bay mooring, didn't take part in 1988, but Duncan Stewart (Cookie), who has been with the race since its first edition in 1982, raced aboard the 25m Fisher & Paykel with Grant Dalton. Dalton used the Coastal Classic as a training run for his new round the world boat. Cookie's main concern was that he would miss the party in Russell, as Fisher & Paykel would return to Auckland immediately after the race.


1988 presented dream conditions, in which Afterburner set a new record of 9 hours and 20 minutes despite encountering some light patches when the cat was all but becalmed.



Only 65 of 155 starters finished the 1989 race, and it was the first year that a monohull took line honours. Gale force north to north easterlies 'pasted' the fleet, with many boats, on experiencing 70-knot headwinds and enormous seas off Brett, turning around and heading home. Emotional Rescue crossed the line first after 19 hours and 7 minutes of windward slog.


The crew of the 11m catamaran Split Enz, skippered by Jason Price, played light and shifty breezes to be first to Russell in 18h 20.5m. Afterburner was second. From Hen Island the fleet battled light south-south westerly breezes. Longfellow, hit the putty just off North Head , opted to sail offshore at the Hen and Chicken Islands, and finished 26 minutes later.



After yet another long, slow race, Ian Margan's Future Shock crossed the finish line at Russell after 25 hours and 5 minutes, 30 minutes ahead of Chris Packer's Starlight Express. Future Shock was behind Starlight until Tutukaka, where they decided to stay close inshore while the Davidson 55 went further out to sea. In 1991 five inches was chopped from Kiwi's bow to enable the boat to race in Division 2, while a 727 called The Source had a few inches added, enabling the boat to meet minimum size requirements.



Forecast conditions for the 1992 conditions indicated a fresh southeasterly and the potential for a new set of records, but the 20 knot easterly that did eventuate eased off and the race was uneventful, with the exception of a man overboard aboard Krisis. The then-new Davidson Antaeus took line honours from Pretty Boy Floyd and the multihullTL Systes.



The NZ Army brought their 105mm Howitzer along for Paul Holmes to send the fleet of 166 off to a flying start. Split Enz smashed the record again - 8 hours 48 minutes and 31 seconds. Afterburner lost her rig the day before the race. The first 10 boats in were multihulls. Jim Young's Rocket design, Extreme (Robert Hewitt, Scott Fyfe, Geoff Seward, Geoff Martlew) designed especially for this event took line honours in Division 4 and retained it for 5 years.



Catamaran Split Enz spent four hours becalmed off Cape Bret in the early hours of Saturday morning, but was still the first boat across the Russell finish line. Handicap honours went to single-handed sailor Steve Trevurza, who raced the smallest boat in the fleet, a 6.5m Murray Ross design called Phonak. Trevurza won first overall on handicap, and was first on handicap in division four. 1994 was also the year that New Zealand had two all-female crews in the Sydney Hobart race, and Gayle Melrose's Outward Bound was the first across the line, ahead of Teresa Borell's Brightstone.



There were 216 entries and over 200 on the start line, which included the catamaran from Australia - XS owned, designed and skippered by ex-pat Kiwi Robin Chamberlain. Afterburner took line honours and broke Split Enz' winning streak.



Classic and Vintage divisions were added to the race to cater for the ever increasing numbers which had now reached 248. Sir Peter Blake fired the start gun to send the fleet off in almost perfect conditions. This year saw all six records well and truly smashed due to the conditions and 15-20 knot easterlies all the way. Apart from the record set by the supermaxi Zana for monohulls over 12.19 meters, all of the records set in 1996 still stand ten years later. Split Enz celebrated her 13th birthday, setting the fastest time of 7 hours 20 minutes and 51 seconds. Primo crossed in 9 hours 22 minutes and 24 seconds to create the new Monohull and Division One record, Satellite Spy: Division Two, Mumm 30: Division Three, Extreme: Division Four: and Redken Cat: Division Six.



220 entrants and the Lindauer Classic went on-line with a brand new website created for the event - the first yachting event in New Zealand to do this. The Keith Chapman Memorial trophy was awarded for the first time for an act of seamanship during the race. Antaeus, helmed for the day by Penny Whiting, won it for going to Sundancer's aid during the race. Four yachts were serious casualties in this race. Afterburner flipped and capsized off Kawau Island, Breeze Bender and Snark broke their masts and Sundancer hit what was thought to be a log and came to a sudden stop.



For the first time, the divisions were split by handicap in lieu of length, another monohull division was created and the Lindauer Team Trophy was donated by Montana Wines for the best club team. It was to be the last race Noel Lloyd manned the radio - he retired from the Coastal Classic that year. Ed Baird skipper of Young America fired the start gun for the 212 entrants. His compatriot fired the 5 minute warning signal for the 2nd start - but on the final countdown mistook the kiwi 'five' to mean 'fire' and duly pulled the trigger! - the fleet were organized though and duly left on time at 1010hrs. Afterburner spoiled Split Enz' swansong by taking line honours again. The Pink Pig had their final race to Russell but although finishing second were happy in the knowledge they still held the race record.



Americas Cup challengers delayed their race start to make way for the Coastal Classic 230 boat fleet. Dennis Conner fired the start gun and set the first of the 227 entrants on their way. Tutukaka Coastguard manned the radio for the first schedule. Afterburner headed off the Noumean speed machine Rogntudjuuu and won line honours for the fourth time.



Barbara Kendall performed the start honours and set the first of 229 entrants on their way up to Russell - well, some of them. Certain boats took 3 hours to round North Head but to their credit they hung in there and completed the race. Round the world race boat Newscorp was the first boat to cross the line in Russell but could not claim line honours due to using water ballast. The newly launched Georgia, Farr designed keeler belonging to Jim Farmer took the prize. Sundreamer followed Georgia in, just 12 mins and 45 secs later. It was a slow start and the light southeasterlies died away by lunchtime and made the race longer than usual. However a record 216 boats crossed the finish line in an overall time of 30 hours.



A record 252 from 270 entries hit the start line as Dean Barker from Team New Zealand fired the gun. Rogntudjuuu, the Noumean Multihull owned by Phillippe Coste took line honours from Slime (John Hughes) who had problems with their GPS and headed for Kerikeri. NZL40 took out division one on line. 127 boats pulled out due to the conditions. Four yachts broke their masts.



First boat over the line in the Lindauer Coastal Classic was Slime, the lime green slippery machine who slid across the finish line at the end of the Auckland to Russell Yacht Race just 9 hours 22 minutes after the start in heavy conditions today. The crew of four which, includes Juliette Hughes who helmed most of the way, sailed the 13.2m Tennant designed multihull hard through conditions that suited them well.



2003 heralded the entry of hi-tech canting keelers and water ballasted keelers into the fleet for the first time, presenting the prospect of a greater challenge to multihulls than ever before. Despite this, Rogntudjuu, the giant Noumean catamaran, was first over the line. Second was the brand new X-Factor, skippered by John Vincent, with John Hughes' Slime in third. The big multihulls matchraced from Brett. Former America's Cup boat NZL41 was the first monohull to finish.



2004 was the first year that HSBC 'the world's local bank' came onboard as naming rights sponsor of the event, but it was an uneventful year for the sailors. Stewart Thwaite's 98' supermaxi Zana took line honours, but 30 of the 236 starters gave up and went home during the race: many of the smaller boats never made it out of the Hauraki Gulf in a dying breeze. Rex McCamish's McMoggy was the first multihull across the line. The boats that were most successful stayed well out to sea. The 30-year old Anticipation, skippered by 89-year old Don St-Clair Brown, sailed 40 miles from the coast, never lost the breeze, and finished fifth on line, ahead of numerous potentially faster boats.



The New Zealand supermaxi made yachting history when it set a new race record in the HSBC Coastal Classic. Konica Minolta, at 98 feet completed the course in 8 hours and 29, comfortably beating the record of 9 hours and 22 minutes, which has stood for the keelboat divisions since 1996. owever despite the record, Konica wasn't the first boat across the line: the first three placegetters were multihulls: the Noumean entry called Rongtudjuu, followed by Isis (Murray Ross's yacht on which Dennis Conner was sailing) and X-Factor. None of the multihulls set a new record for their division. Conditions started out as very strong south-westerlies but eased throughout the race. The lead boats suffered in patches of very light airs.



The race started with a lot of promise for the 55 foot boat that was built specifically to win this race. "For the first three hours, we were ahead of the record breaking time," says owner Jon Vincent, explaining that they reached Sail Rock earlier than the catamaran Split Enz did when it achieved its record run of 7 hours and 21 minutes in 1996. But the breeze soon dropped and the crew were left thinking that it could be a long night, until they made the decision to head out to sea, which paid off for them tactically. Second across the line was 'McMoggy' owned by New Zealand Multihull Yacht Club Commodore Rex McCamish, and the brand new 52 foot keelboat 'Wired', launched the week before the race, placed third, and was the first keeler to finish.



Records that had remained intact since 1996 seemed destined to be broken when the official race forecast heralded up to 30 knots from the South East. But sailing wouldn't be sailing if the unexpected didn't happen, and when the forecast drop in windspeed occurred earlier than anticipated, hopes for a new set of records dwindled. Two new boats who took out the first two top spots: Taeping, which crossed the line at 8pm exactly on Saturday was considered a 'dark horse' because the Australian boat is relatively unproven in New Zealand conditions. And for Line 7, sailed by Olympian Dan Slater, Ed Smythe of BMW Oracle, and weatherman Grant Beck, it was a maiden race. Line 7 finished at 2023:23hrs, just 14 seconds ahead of last year's winner, X-Factor.


Multihulls took eight of the top ten spots over line. V5, a Transpac 52 owned by Simon Hull, was the first keelboat (monohull), arriving at 2150.41hrs, followed by Wired and Upshot. Their rival, Pussy Galore, is seeking redress as she diverted to successfully rescue the crew of capsized multihull, Silverraider during the race. The crew were transferred to a Coastguard vessel 15 minutes later, and Pussy Galore rejoined the race. Silverraider is owned by Dave Andrews, who also owns Taeping, and discovered he'd lost his beloved Silverraider within minutes of his victorious line honours win.



The most challenging HSBC Premier Coastal Classic yacht race in many years was won, for the second year in a row, by Dave Andrews' 44 foot catamaran, Taeping. Taeping finished at 0023hrs Saturday morning and was followed into Russell by Simon Hull's Transpac 52, V5, at 0109hrs. The next boats to arrive in Russell were the canting keeled 50 footer Sportivo, the iconic expatriate Kiwi boat Ragtime (nee Infidel) and the folding trimaran, (also known as Need for Speed), skippered by Jon Bilger. Only 83 of the original 229 entrants finished the race, with others opting to retire because of the uncomfortable northerly conditions or gear breakages.



At 4.43pm on Friday 23 October 2009, the supermaxi Alfa Romeo set HSBC Premier Coastal Classic history when she crossed the finish line to set a new race record of 6 hours, 43 minutes and 32 seconds, also the record for keelboats. Soon after, Dan Slater's Frantic Drift set a new record for multihulls under 10.66m, completing the course in 7 hours and 58 minutes, and the swing keeled 30 footer Overload set a new record for keelboats under 9.14m, finishing in 10 hours and 23 minutes.


Alfa Romeo boat wiped more than 36 minutes off the 13-year old record held by the pink multihull Split Enz, achieving an average speed of 17.9 knots on the course.


Brisk South Westerly winds set the scene for an exciting start with the big red trimaran TeamVodafoneSailing, astonishing the sailing world when it reached Sail Rock - 56 nautical miles into the race - in less than two and a half hours, and arrived at Cape Brett at 3pm. It seemed like destiny that the Kiwi owned boat would oust the record set by the visiting Alfa Romeo in 2010, to create sailing history. But the weather gods had other ideas, and the convergence of the sea breeze and the prevailing South-Westerly left a windless hole in the area surrounding Cape Brett. This cost them an hour of waiting for wind, followed by patchy sailing for the last 20 miles into Russell.


TeamVodafoneSailing finished in 7 hours, 16 minutes and 9 seconds, under Split Enz's multihull record of 14 years standing, which was 7 hours, 20 minutes and 51 seconds, but outside the overall record of 6 hours, 43 minutes and 32 seconds set the year before by Alfa Romeo. Next to finish, at 1900hrs, was Roger Pagani's Triple 8, followed by the 28 foot catamaran, Charleston, and Evolution Sails Limit, with Chris Dickson onboard, and Split Enz. 



Five hours, 44 minutes and 31 seconds was all the time it took for TeamVodafoneSailing to sail the Coastal Classic racecourse, and it marked the achievement of a decades long ambition for the boat's owner, Simon Hull, who bought TeamVodafoneSailing to New Zealand, specifically for this reason. To average a speed of around 20 knots for the duration of the race, TeamVodafoneSailing peaked at 34.8 knots of boatspeed on the racecourse, and saw extended periods of over 30 knots.

TeamVodafoneSailing was followed into Russell by Roger Pagani's catamaran, Triple 888, at 1924 hours, and Taeping at 1952 hours. The race started at 1000hrs. Dirty Deeds finished thirty minutes outside the record for smaller multihull boats, and without absolutely perfect South-Easterly sailing conditions. The top monohulls were Wired, finishing at 1942hrs, V5 at 1953hrs, and Bare Essentials at 2031hrs. The red trimaran Lucifer capsized at Cape Brett, Exodus was dismasted, and a number of multihulls withdrew with gear damage, leading to 15 retirees from 151 starters, the penalty of a hard and fast race.


A race of record-breaking proportions that saw Team Vodafone Sailing take a staggering 28 minutes off its own previous race record, finishing in 5 hrs: 13 mins: 21 sec while the Farr 11.6, Ross 930 and Young 11 records fell by the wayside in near-perfect sailing conditions. Headline entry Beau Geste, sailing under the banner of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, was the first monohull to cross the line in 7 hrs: 06mins: 42sec, narrowly missing out on the current monohull race record of 6hrs: 43mins: 32sec. In a nail-biting finish 28-foot multihull Charleston very narrowly missed out on the under-30-foot multihull record, crossing the line just two minutes outside of the current record time of 07hrs: 58mins: 35sec. The stiff sou-westerly breeze meant all boats finished within the cut off time - a rare and welcome phenomenon.


With a forecast for strong north-west breeze the mice were sorted from the men even before the start of the 2015 event.  There were 20 withdrawals before the start, and a further 49 'Did Not Finish' (DNF) results, either through mid-race retirements, or boats, miserable in pouring rain, simply not making it to Russell before the cutoff time. Team Vodafone Sailing  took line honours for the third year in a row, with a time of 9 hours, 23 minutes and 13 seconds. 


Like many of the fleet, the formerly Team Vodafone, now known as Frank Racing, was on blistering track for a record time for the first third of the race. But sadly like it's prone to do, the wind weakened and went north and all hopes were dashed.  With Frank Sailing winning, and Taeping in close second, the stand out perfomrance was Slime, a 13.2m catamaran designed Malcolm Tennant catamaran first took line honours in the race in 2002. Slime was the third boat to cross the finish line, at 1918hrs, a finish time that was within four minutes of its finish time 14 years ago, with the same skipper. 


150 yachts representing the spectrum of the New Zealand race fleet were offered a steady breeze for the first 100 nautical miles of the race, between Auckland and Cape Brett. For Simon Hull and Frank Racing (formerly TeamVodafone), who had invited Jimmy Spithill to join them for the race, a wait for wind at Brett was a nail biting moment: Simon’s big ORMA60 had overtaken its rival, the gigantic new MOD70 Beau Geste in the first hour of the race, and achieved their best ever time to Sail Rock. But then things got more frustrating than a Labour Weekend traffic jam as the curse of the traditional Cape Brett ‘parking lot’ syndrome kicked in, with both boats wasting precious minutes waiting for breeze to reappear while the opportunity of a race record disappeared. Eventually, careful tactical sailing gave Frank Racing the lead and they were able to gradually extend that on the 19nm upwind leg to finish in a time of 6 hours, 4 minutes and 44 seconds. Beau Geste, only newly acquired by Hong Kong sailor Karl Kwok, finished just eight minutes later in 6 hours, 12 minutes and 58 seconds.


2018 was a big boat fest in Northerly conditions. The giant Orma 60 trimaran Frank Racing took out their eighth win. The Imoca 60 Awen led the monohull keelboat fleet across the finish line for the second time in second place overall, Kotuku and Cation finished hot on their tail: just one minute and three minutes behind respectively. Considering that the fleet made hard work of it on the wind for the entire distance, the race was still considered “a good one” by 165 competing boats who enjoyed the Bay of Islands’ sunshine as a happy reward at the finish. ​



The 37th PIC Coastal Classic was sailed in testing conditions, with strong winds enabling a fast race and a new overall race record for 150 starters. In gusty conditions and under gennaker in the 20+ knot south westerly winds, many boats clocked new high speeds. First placed classic yacht, Innismara, owned by Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron’s commodore Ian Cook, reported speeds of up to 22 knots - not bad for a grand old boat.   The multi Lucifer sat on 19-20 knots for hours and hours. Beau Geste, the giant mod 70 trimaran took the gun just a few seconds past the 5-hour mark, which has raised a whole new conversation: who could possibly sail this course quicker than that?  



At 3:58am on Saturday morning, Bianca Cook and Darryl Wislang with their all-kiwi NZ Ocean Racing crew became the first monohull to win the PIC Coastal Classic yacht race since 2009. After 18 hours racing through conditions that have been described as “painful” due to  light winds, the team triumphantly completed the 119 nautical mile race from Auckland to Russell. The multihull CATION finished second. The nature of the race seemed appropriate given multiple lockdowns and the slow path north for 165 boats. 



A heart breaking year for the committee of the New Zealand Multihull Yacht Club, who were forced to cancel the race with the Auckland region plunged into lockdown to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a reluctant decision, made with heavy hearts, and every attempt was made to find a way to continue racing but in the end, health came first. 


With 164 boats competing the conditions were both brilliant and frustrating. The race started with an appealing 15 knot South-Westerly but changed as the fleet approached halfway.  By midnight the Easterly had set in, providing a good ride home for the fleet as it rounded Brett and turned to the South-West. The real highlight was the impressive victory of a monohull keelboat, marking only the second time since 2009 that such a triumph had been achieved.  The honour went to V5, crossing the line at 23:46:23. Keelboats dominated the top six positions, with  Cat+ion emerging as the first multihull to finish, trailing V5 by just 14 minutes with a time of 00:00:17.  Apache, a Murray Ross design skippered by the Erie Williams of Team New Zealand fame, followed within two minutes.

Credits: Compiling this information was a team effort that could only be completed thanks to the people who have been involved in this race over many years. Thank you very much to Lesley Grant and Joyce Talbot for use of their archive information. We have also used historical news clippings from Cookie's scrapbook. This includes publications including the NZ Herald, 8 O'clock, SeaSpray Magazine, North Shore Times Advertiser, Star, NZ Yachting and Nautical News. We thank those publications for their contribution to New Zealand yachting history. By Zoe Hawkins, for the Coastal Classic and further updated by current race media. 

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