The 2012 Round New Zealand Race started on 25th of February, 22 years after the inaugural Berocca Round New Zealand Two Handed Yacht Race. After more than 6 months of preparations, with a significant investment getting the boats ready, SSANZ were pleased to see all 10 entrants made it to the start line.
The British yacht, Sunstone at the start of the 2007 Coastal Classic
REVS crossed the starting line first, though it wasn't long until Truxton slipped past for an early lead with Expedition Coppelia pushing forward in second. Krakatoa 2 had trouble right of the start losing a head sail. Then, while rounding North Head, a wall of water washes skipper Rhys Boulton down the boat. Rhys used his foot to stop him, injuring the cartilage between two of his toes. Thankfully for Rhys the leg was a quick one, sailing through the pain 'till he gets to land. In just 5 hours the fleet were approaching the half way mark, giving the committee following the race around by land a hurry up.
The wind had died down overnight and the approach to the finish began a long slow drift with the current over the line. Second place line finish was Krakatoa 2, where an ambulance waiting for Rhys Boulton took him to Kaitaia Hospital to assess whether he was fit to continue racing. Given the all clear, Rhys returns back to the Mangonui Cruising Club to join the rest of the sailors celebrate a Leg well run. The stopover was a short one, just 24 hours to rest and recuperate before setting out on the longest and hardest leg of the race.
Leg 2: Mangonui-Stewart Island
The leg start was postponed by 15 minutes due to becalmed conditions. Surreal took a flyer and gained, then got dumped. Vingilot and Danaide found breeze along the shore and did well, while Truxton led the way again. Sunstone and Pelagian level pegging, til Pelagian went under Surville cliffs, gained then stopped. Pelagian fell into huge black hole off Reinga and not seen again.
While leg two began with light winds and calm seas, the wild West Coast lived up to its reputation with a gale warning and winds gusting to 70kts with rough seas, squally showers and poor visibility. The fleet leaders have been neck and neck the majority of the leg, chopping and changing between line and handicap leaders. But that all changed with Krakatoa 2 retiring due to the skipper, Rhys Boulton's injured foot leaving team Surreal, REVS, Vingilot and Sunstone continuing down the coast of the South Island, while Danaide (dan-uh-dee), Expedition Coppelia and Truxton headed into Golden Bay for shelter.
Both Pelagian 2 and Panther went out wide offshore and found themselves in the middle of the large storm system approaching from Australia.
MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY! ??At 2130 Pelagian II set off their EPIRB at a position about 275 miles West of New Plymouth when they found they were taking in water faster than they could pump it out. ??The center of the Forecast 'Weather Bomb' had just past over them battering them with wind gusts of up to 70 knots (130 km/hr) and fierce seas.?? At 2230 Pelagian II had reported that they had managed to start their engine and had their emergency pump keeping up with the influx of water and were slowly heading in an Easterly direction hoping to rendezvous with
a ship enroute to aid them estimated to be 40 hours away.
Panther, also stuck out to sea in the storm system had their own problem to deal with... crew, David Cooke was suffering extreme sea sickness no longer responding to scopolamine patches. David insisted he couldn't continue with the race and had to get off the boat. This was a testing moment for John Burns who had spent a lot of time and money pursuing his dream of sailing around his country. The racing rules state that crew changes can only occur at stopovers, so returning David to land mean forfeiting the race. The value of friendship meant far more to John who retired Panther from the race, midway through leg 2.
The rough seas and large swells continued but the wind eased a little before another deepening low pressure system hit the fleet the following evening with even rougher conditions. The front of the fleet battled through this second low pressure system, sailing close to the coast, down along Fiordland. Meanwhile Danaide up in Nelson, were unsure as to their fate of the race, but after preliminarily declaring their departure from the race, they quickly withdrew that comment quickly and in no time they were back in the race and heading down to Stewart Island.
Surreal came in first into Stewart Island with a welcome from a local day care (see photo below). The Stewart Island school has been actively following the race also came down to the wharf and looked over both Surreal and REVS.
All yachts were welcomed into Half Moon Bay and allocate morrings. The Danaide crew received a welcome from their support crew who sung their hearts out to a theme along the lines of desperately needing a cuddle. All crews were billeted ashore with the exception of the Sunstone crew who preferred to stay aboard their own home. ??Evening get togethers at the South Seas Hotel were the norm with the exception of a crew welcoming banquet at the local Pavillion and a farewell prizegiving at the Community Hall. Both functions were outstanding with abundant freshly caught Paua, Oysters, Mussels and Blue Cod. ??The golf day was unfortunately cancelled by the only real day of rain so a day fishing on Garry Neave's fishing boat 'Arun' was scheduled instead.
??We all learnt how to catch cod by both line and pot. Also the correct way of filleting was perfected by Charles off Vingilot who spent about two hours reducing his 'inferior product' percentage and amased about 10kg of fine fillets with the rest of the 20 odd kilos being produced by the expert hand of Garry in a fraction of the time.
??Apart from the fishing day the weather was remarkably good with generally clear skies and light winds though temperatures had a distinct hint of winter in them. ?? The Surreal and Sunstone crews also gave talks at the school and the children came out on one of the local fishing boats to watch the start. ??The Island presently has no active yacht club so our usual donation to the stopover clubs to help cover expenses posed a small problem, but with the keen interest shown by the local School we all agreed that our donation should go tot he school which we hope may kick start a building program for Optimists or Firebugs and get a learn-to-sail program going.
The restart at 1400 on Tuesday went relatively smoothly with Truxton and Expedition Coppelia charging over the line first with Genneker and Spinnaker, respectively, with a tail wind of around 12 knots. ??An armarda of local fishing boats and spectators followed for about an hour to fairwell them on their way.
NAPIER - Leg 3 to Finish
Congratulations to 'Truxton' (Tiller 10.5m) winning both line and handicap finishing at 10:06 on the 17th beating 'Surreal' (Beneteau 47.7m) by 1hr 27 mins, the race favourite, after 3 days 20 hours of sailing from Stewart Is in a tightly fought dual.
Third to finish was Expedition Coppelia some 14 hours later with the rest of the fleet struggling against headwinds up the East Coast and light airs across Hawke’s Bay.
The last yacht to finish was Sunstone after 5 days and 18 hours finishing at 0822 on the 19th.
Everyone was saddened to learn of the tragic sinking of the fishing vessel 'Easy Rider' off the North West Coast of Stewart Island the day after their departure from the Island enroute to Napier. The fleet had sailed across that area of Foveaux Strait the week before as they neared the Leg 2 finish at Half Moon Bay.
The weather in Napier is usually dependably fine and sunny but unfortunately turned grey and wet for the majority of the stopover but this did not deter the fleet from having a jolly good time and many yarns were related at the hospitable Napier Sailing Club where the yachts were berthed. Those lucky enough to have finished in time took full advantage of the clubbing that was to be had at the Ahuriri waterfront on Saturday night and all joined in the celebrations at the prize giving dinner on the Monday night.
The highlight of the stopover was the traditional Wine Trail on Tuesday afternoon with most of the crews and their support teams enjoying the local wines and very informative talks by some of the wine makers.
Unlike the previous leg from Mangonui to Stewart Island which saw the fleet sail through the weather bomb on the night of March 2nd there was little damage to repair with only the usual sail repairs and electronic breakdowns to contend with.
The Race restart on the 21 March was hampered by Sea fog and a container ship which lay across the fleet’s course near their start line which was delayed in trying to enter the port due to low visibility of, at times, less than 100m. The Pilot on board the ship was not amused that a bunch of yachts wanted to sail around him so it was not until the fog started lifting and the ship cleared our course and entered port that we were able to finally get the fleet underway at 1715.
During their fist night at sea whilst approaching Mahia Peninsular the fleet were pounded by a nasty Nor’easterly gale which caused some minor damage to the yachts.
Most notably to 'Danaide' the Beale 38 which took on a lot of water after one of their cabin windows was stove in. They headed for shelter to effect repairs but with the wind and seas abating during the early morning they were able to continue racing.
This final leg to Auckland has seen the fleet battling against headwinds and light airs making what would usually be a 2-3 day leg a 3-4 day one with the fleet originally due in to Auckland on Saturday now not starting to arrive until early Sunday.