150 boats, including the biggest multihull to date, sleek racers, and colourful cruisers out for an adventure, are lined up to sail from Auckland to Russell at Labour Weekend in the PIC Coastal Classic, and there is real potential of breaking the sub-five hour barrier for the first time.
The boats that are capable of doing that are six times race winner and current record holder Frank Racing, and a new kid on the block, Beau Geste.
But like always in yachting, the difference between the theoretical and the reality, comes down to the wind.
According to wind prediction service PredictWind.com, the long range forecast shows the wind has the potental to be light and from the South West, meaning that for long periods of time, the boats will be sitting waiting and hoping for wind.
“It is looking like it will be on the lighter side of things,” says Nick Olson of PredictWind. “All of the models have a high pressure system passing to the north of the North Island, and the timing of its movement will influence the direction and strength of the winds we get over the race period.
Given a light forecast Beau Geste and Frank Racing, for all their size and technical ability, may not complete the course until between midnight and 4am on Saturday morning - which if true would make it one of the slowest races in memory, a far cry from the mid afternoon finish times of recent years.
Smaller boats - like the new Mumm 30 recently arrived from Australia and getting ready to do its first Coastal, will be out until at least breakfast time.
Others will arrive late Saturday - and even into Sunday.
“Pack plenty of food, water, sunscreen and be ready for a long race,” says Greer Houston, Commodore of the New Zealand Multihull Yacht Club.”
However Nick Olson also says that if the high moves through early we could get wind from the north/ north west - which presents another set of challenges all together for the race fleet.
Greer says that whenever boats and their crew arrive, there will be a warm welcome for them in Russell, with food, entertainment and water taxis on call 24 hours a day.
The PIC Coastal Classic starts on the morning of Friday 20 October. Sponsored by PIC Insurance Brokers for five years, it is New Zealand’s biggest yacht race and one of the biggest of its type in the world. The race starts off Devonport Wharf in Auckland and finishes off Russell Wharf in the Bay of Islands. Supporting sponsors are 36° Brokers, B&G, Zhik, Railblaza, Doyle Stratis, Yachting NZ and Mount Gay Rum, creating a family of sponsors that help deliver this great race each year since 1984.
Enter and follow the race at www.coastalclassic.co.nz and on Facebook.