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2015 race a fun challenge

Despite stiff headwinds, current race record holders Team Vodafone Sailing still put in a respectable effort to win this year's PIC Coastal Classic yacht race. The big red trimaran took out line honours for the third year in a row, with a time of 9 hours, 23 minutes and 13 seconds. The fastest monohull in this year's race, Volvo 70 Giacomo, arrived in Russell well after dark, crossing the line 13 hours, 11 minutes and 23 seconds after the start. But her time wasn't enough to win Division 1a on handicap - that honour going to Kerikeri boat Rikki, owned by Bay of Islands local Ray Haslar. The strong north-west breeze meant New Zealand's most iconic yacht race was too much of an uphill battle for many of this year's competitors. There were 20 withdrawals before the start, and a further 49 'Did Not Finish' (DNF) results, either through mid-race retirements, or boats simply not making it to Russell before the cutoff time at mid-afternoon today. Those who steadfastly continued were faced with consistently tough upwind conditions, until they rounded the corner at Cape Brett, and eased sails for the final leg into Russell. The final boats in on Saturday also had heavy rain to contend with, as a front moved over the north of the country. The weather didn't do much to dampen spirits though, and crews - though tired and wet - were jubilant on arrival in Russell township. Among those determined to get their boat over the line, and have a great adventure in the process, were Navy training vessels Paea and Mako. In what was tipped to be an epic battle, the Royal New Zealand Navy squared off against the New Zealand Army in identical blue yachts, with the Navy boys aboard Mako taking the lead at the very end of the race to romp home ahead of their Army rivals. In another of this year's races-within-a-race, Sir Peter Blake's Whitbread-winning Steinlager II came in a couple of hours ahead of the older and slower Lion New Zealand, who took a wrong turn at the Hen & Chicken Islands which cost them a lot of time. Both yachts were sailed by amateur crews of youngsters, many of whom had never tried sailing before, but enjoyed a character-building ride aboard these iconic round-the-world racing yachts. The first start gun for the race fired at 0930hrs on Friday 23 October 2015 off Devonport Wharf in Auckland, which saw a short and colourful downwind run for the few hundred metres to the eastern end of North Head. But from there it was onward and upward for the 119 nautical mile stretch to Russell. From North Head, the fleet remained tightly bunched, passing between Tiritiri Matangi Island and Whangaparaoa Peninsula. After Kawau, however, there was a big separation in the fleet, as some headed east towards Little Barrier Island in search of stronger wind, and others hugged the shore to take advantage of smoother seas. On shore, the race was followed by thousands of people in New Zealand and around the globe. For the first time in the race's history, live streaming coverage allowed thousands of viewers worldwide to watch the spectacular start of the race, filmed by cameras on the shore and on the water. Once live coverage finished, the PredictWind race tracker on the PIC Coastal Classic website let race followers track the boats in real time as they sailed up the coast, bringing the race to life for thousands of people on shore. Race HQ in Russell has been buzzing with excited friends, family and supporters of those on the water, all keen to get a glimpse of the race tracker and see where their loved ones are. Race Director Anthony McBride said: "The north-west wind meant it was an extremely challenging race for competitors this year, and the conditions contributed to a fifty percent drop-out rate in the fleet. Quite a few went back to Auckland and others pulled into Tutukaka or Whangarei, and we'd like to say thanks to those crews for putting safety first." "Those who finished the race did very well and we congratulate them on their efforts to make it all the way, and to those who didn't finish, I hope we'll be able to welcome you back again next year." The New Zealand Multihull Yacht Club thanks title sponsors PIC Insurance Brokers for their ongoing and extensive support of the Coastal Classic. The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron also deserves praise for supporting and assisting with the event again this year, along with the many divisional and spot prize sponsors. Full results, photos, video, race tracker, commentary and more is available

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