While the weather is difficult to predict with any certainty one week out from the race start, one thing that the organisers of the PIC Coastal Classic do know for sure, is that there is a fresh buzz about the iconic event. “We’re pretty happy to see nearly 170 boats entered already, with a few last registrations still trickling in” says Commodore of the organizing NZ Multihull Yacht Club, Greer Houston. Starting from 9:30am on Friday 19th October, the 36th edition of this coastal yacht race from Auckland to Russell has experienced nearly 10% growth from last year. With the biggest fleet in the last five years, participants will chase the fastest time of 5 hours 13 minutes which was set by Team Vodafone Sailing (now called Team Frank Racing) in 2014. “Last year we introduced a cruising rally division, and the feedback reassured us that this was a loved addition to the race” Greer continues. “I’m glad we expanded on that concept because the cruising rally fleet has nearly tripled.” At 119 nautical miles long and as one of the biggest races of its type in the Southern Hemisphere, the fastest boats will reach Russell in as little as six hours, and the slowest will be cut short by the race deadline of 3pm Saturday. While Team Frank Racing will be on the water to defend their title, there are only a handful that are true contenders to strip them of the overall record. What is more at risk is the boat class records, and records per boat size, because there are an astonishing 83 boats that are new to the race, or haven’t competed in many years. Included in the new boats to challenge the status quo is Saturday Night Special, a Roper 9000 designed and built by Allan Roper and to be skippered for this race by his 14 year old son, Tim. Also brand new to the scene is Aela, a CNB66 and the first of its type in New Zealand. The NZ Sailing Trust, long-time supporters of the race have entered the legendary Steinlager II into the race, and plan to inspire the next generation of coastal sailors by taking 10 students from Okaihu College in the Far North on the return trip back from Russell to Auckland. PIC Coastal Classic Race Director Anthony McBride comments “We’re seeing a lot of diversity in the fleet this year and are working carefully to meet the needs and wants of today’s group of sailors. The event has changed since the initial drag race in 1982, and we’re fortunate to have partners alongside us supporting this evolution and also holding steadfast on the important traditions of the race.” “PIC Insurance Brokers are a company that are genuinely interested in supporting the race, and the New Zealand Multihull Yacht Club is lucky to have a long-standing relationship with PIC’s dedicated marine team.” he concludes. Principal sponsor PIC Insurance Brokers is largely to thank for the success of this event, as are partners including Doyle Sails, 36 Degrees Brokers, Mt Gay Rum, PredictWind, Zhik, B&G and Yachting New Zealand. Burnsco, Dirty Dog Eyewear, Jackson Electrical, The Longroom and Boating NZ also contribute prizes to the event.