Friday’s PIC Coastal Classic yacht race is expected to be a quick one. With moderate south westerly winds forecast for the 119 nautical mile race from Auckland to Russell in the Bay of Islands, experts say that they haven’t seen a forecast this good since the record-breaking event in 2014, sailed in similar conditions.
That year, team Beau Geste sailed the iconic coastal race in their monohull with a finishing time of 7hrs 6 minutes, narrowly missing out on the supermaxi Alfa Romeo’s record of 6hrs 43mins for boats with one hull, set in 2009. The race saw three popular classes in New Zealand have their records broken: The Ross 930 (No Worries 13hr58m), Young 11 (Fine Line 12hr49) and Farr 11.6 (Expedition Copellia 14hr13) and the overall race record was set by Team Vodafone Sailing/ Frank Racing in their Orma 60 trimaran at 5hrs 13 minutes. No records have changed hands since.
This year, team Beau Geste are sailing their mod 70 trimaran multihull, one of the fastest sailboats in the southern hemisphere that is quite capable of setting a new precedent for a fast finish in Russell. They have already set two race records in 2019 and may have a trifecta within striking distance – if the forecast remains as it is or builds.
“The forecast for Friday has been staying relatively consistent over the past few days” says weather expert Nick Olson of PredictWind. “If the forecast doesn’t change after each model run, then that's a good thing. It gives us higher confidence that what we see is what we will get, along with the fact that we can see all four weather models provided by PredictWind in consensus."
Crews of the 175 entered boats, will be hanging on and watching the forecast progress, with high hopes that a consistent south westerly breeze of 15-20knots will see them sailing north on most boats’ fastest angle to the wind.
Nick showed the wind model to race participants gathered for a preparation evening on Monday, and as he was explaining what is expected for 10pm Friday night, there was uncomfortable laughter at a not-so-pretty picture.
“Around Cape Brett, near the end of the race we could see a shut down in the breeze .” Nick says. “Typically there’s better breeze on the Kerikeri side as boats approach the finish line, but its best to check what is actually happening as the weather models are updated before dark”.
Many of the fleet will be hoping to finish before midnight, but as the race takes in all shape and size of boat, some won’t finish until lunch time Saturday.
The PIC Coastal Classic is the annual event that signals the start of the summer boating season. Sailed every labour weekend since 1982, the New Zealand Multihull Yacht Club event has grown into much more than a yacht race, with now up to 20 boats taking part in a non-competitive cruising rally division.
Family and friends can follow the race on Friday morning from 9:30am with live streaming online the PIC Coastal Classic facebook, and full coverage including tracking by PredictWind online www.coastalclassic.co.nz
Photos from that fast start in 2014: