175 boats are due to take part in the iconic PIC Coastal Classic yacht race from Auckland to Russell in the Bay of Islands tomorrow morning, for the running of the 37th edition of this Labour Weekend tradition.
Engrained as a ‘right of passage’ for New Zealand’s sailing community, the 119 nautical mile race starts at 9:30am with windy conditions expected of up to 20-25 knots from the south west.
“It will be exciting at the start line, for sure” says NZ Multihull Yacht Club Commodore, Greer Houston. “Because of the wind direction, we are likely to see spinnakers and gennakers up and boats at full pace from the minute the race starts.”
At the time of writing on Thursday afternoon, based on the forecast and modelling from PredictWind, the fastest boat in the fleet (Mod 70 Trimaran, Beau Geste) is estimated to finish around 3-4pm Friday afternoon – within striking distance of the current race record of 5hr 13 minutes. A more average boat that is representative of the majority of the fleet, a Farr 1020, is estimated to finish between midnight and 1am Saturday.
“Most of the fleet will be finished in time for a hot breakfast in Russell on Saturday morning” says Greer. “While the south westerly does mean good sailing conditions, it will be cold and has potential to get stronger through the day, so will be hard work without much chance to rest.”
One division is in no rush to get to the finish line, the Cruising Rally entrants are more competitive when it comes to the best dinner menu on board, best scenic photo taken, or even as per last year – biggest fish caught.
“A lot of the growth and change we’re seeing in the fleet comes from participants just wanting to have fun. It’s more than a yacht race. The PIC Coastal Classic has become a firm commitment in boating social calendars, year after year, and a great opportunity to come together with family and friends with a shared passion for sailing” Greer concludes.
As an illustration of the diversity in the fleet, here are some statistics and fascinating facts on the race:
The biggest boat in the fleet is Beau Geste, the Mod 70 Trimaran. Black Hornet, a Mini 6.5 entered by Paul Wager, is less than 1/3 the size. Both are offshore racing designs but at opposite ends of the spectrum.
The newest boat in the fleet is Checkmate, a Beneteau Oceanis 46.1 launched in 2019 by owner Arron Young, the current Vice Commodore of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. The oldest boat was launched 81 years ago – Spray II is being raced by John Duder.
While Beau Geste is taking all the fame as the fastest multihull in the fleet, Awen has been the first monohull into Russell for the last two years, and is back to seek a trifecta this year. As a 60’er, they have a waterline length advantage over a fleet of five ‘Fast52’ boats that will be chasing their tail.
There are two boats racing this year to defend their class records:
Attitude in the 8.5m Catamaran class - 8h 1m 06 sec
Pretty Woman in the Elliot 1050 class - 13h 14m 26 sec
Of the 175 boats expected on the start line, 92 are returning from last year, 51 from previous years and 32 have never done the race.
The boat that has won the most races in total is Vodafone/Frank Sailing, who has got the gun eight times in the last 9 years, and they also hold the overall record of 5hrs 13 minutes. The trimaran has recently been sold overseas so will not be on the water to defend its title.
The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron has 63 boats racing to represent their club, The Short Handed Sailing Association has 14, and both Royal Akarana Yacht Club and Richmond Yacht Club have 11. The host club, NZ Multihull Yacht Club has the 5th biggest fleet, with 9 boats opting to undertake this epic challenge for weekend warriors.
Spectators can watch the race unfold from the shorelines at North Head and Devonport, and the start will be live-streamed online facebook. For more ways to follow the race, go to www.coastalclassic.co.nz/watch to follow the race minute by minute for the duration.