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It won’t be easy. It never is.

Competitors at a ‘winning strategy’ information session to prepare for the Friday morning start of the PIC Coastal Classic yacht race have learned one key thing from the experts: it won’t be easy, and it never is.

With a wind forecast that is looking light and from the north east, the crews on board 170 participating sailboats could be in for a challenging night on the Great Race North from Auckland to Russell in the Bay of Islands.

“Your best forecast is your most recent forecast” says PredictWind’s Nick Olsen. “All of our forecasting models will be updated after 8am on Friday, so about an hour before the 9:30am start is a good time to solidify your race plan”.

Nick reiterates the importance of watching real-time observations of wind readings up the coast. “It’s the only way you can anticipate any necessary changes to your race plan” he says.

Not only is it important for competitors to monitor the readings from weather stations, but the data on board their boats. Modern navigation instruments, if calibrated and used correctly, give fundamental information that teams need to make rational decisions on the water.

Craig McMillan from B&G elaborates: “Competitors should do a sanity check on their instrument calibration before the start by checking boat speed and heading against GPS. Tack to tack comparisons on wind angle will make sure that the masthead unit is correctly aligned, and will give confidence in the instruments.”

“If you’re racing downwind at seven knots of boat speed, and you notice a 10 degree wind shift that your competitor doesn’t, your resulting change of course could shave nine minutes off a two mile race distance” he says.

“When you think that this race is 119 nautical miles long, that attention to detail is absolutely vital” continues Craig. “More races are won on wind shifts than any other factor, so a good true wind direction solution is the holy grail of any integrated instrument system”.

With a tide change due right at the start of the race, the 36th edition of the PIC Coastal Classic is expected to be a challenge right from the start.

Dan Slater, with a strong tactical background from sailing in both the Americas Cup and Olympic Games, reckons that getting distance from the coastline will be essential.

“The last place you want to be if the wind goes light in a northerly, is close to the shoreline” he says. “Especially the slower boats will want to sail well above the Rhumb line early in the race, so they can bear away from the wind as they approach Cape Brett, if it’s blowing from the north”.

One thing is for sure – this coast line is epic and promises a new adventure every time.

Accomplished yachtie and expert commentator Peter Lester will be leading the livestream coverage of the race on Friday morning from 9:25am until 10:10am – online

The PredictWind tracking system will be used by every boat, so that spectators can follow the race yachts online with real-time position data as the fleet makes their way north.

All coverage options including a log of VHF Radio skeds, can be found online the official website

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