by Zoe Hawkins
Team Australia (Sean Langman) against the downtown Auckland backdrop in her match against TeamVodafoneSailing (Simon Hull) on the Waitemata Harbour, Wednesday October 23, 2013. Team Australia will line up for the 2013 Coastal Classic
They are nearly identical vessels, considered to be the fastest race boats in Australasia, and yesterday afternoon TeamVodafone and Team Australia met up for the first time in New Zealand waters.
The Head to Head was scheduled ahead of tomorrow's PIC Insurance Brokers Coastal Classic Auckland to Russell Yacht Race to get some much wanted answers about which of the two extreme 60-foot trimarans would be faster.
In moderate Westerly conditions and with Emirates Team New Zealand Skipper Dean Barker aboard for his first race since the America's Cup, Sean Langman's Team Australia gained an early lead over Kiwi Simon Hull's TeamVodafone, gybing from Westhaven down the Waitemata to be several hundred metres ahead when the boats reached Orakei and North Head.
The hammer went down once they reached clearer air in the open harbour, and both boats screamed towards Rangitoto Light at close to thirty knots. With the exception of in short bursts, neither one seemed to make significant gains on the other.
A navigational error meant that Team Australia needed to change course within a kilometre of the rounding mark, which gave TeamVodafone the opportunity to march on ahead.
Team Australia (Sean Langman) vs TeamVodafoneSailing (Simon Hull) on the Waitemata Harbour, Wednesday October 23, 2013. Team Australia will line up for the 2013 Coastal Classic
The boats turned upwind at the mark and TeamVodafone, which carried a bigger headsail and later shook the reef in its main to increase its sail area again, showed instant upwind speed over its rival.
Once back inside North Head, the boats played the game of finding consistent air and maintaining boat speed for the few miles back to the finish off of Westhaven Marina, with TeamVodafone crossing the line far ahead of Team Australia.
Is this result indicative of what will happen tomorrow? Observers say it was difficult to judge. Team Australia expected the breeze to build when it in fact dropped, and was hampered by an early decision to use a smaller headsail - but they won't let that happen in the PIC Insurance Brokers Coastal Classic. In racing on the Queensland circuit two years ago, before significant modification to both boats, Team Australia showed pace in light airs, but TeamVodafone took them out comfortably in the Sydney to Southport, the only other coastal race where boats have lined up together.
Jim Delegat's Volvo 70, Giacomo (the former Groupama 3) watches the match between Team Australia (Sean Langman) in their match against TeamVodafoneSailing (Simon Hull) on the Waitemata Harbour, Wednesday October 23, 2013. Team Australia will line up for the 2013 Coastal Classic
For Sean Langman, Simon Hull and their crews, it's almost certain that they finished the day with as many questions as they started with.
The spectacular mass start for the PIC Insurance Brokers Coastal Classic is off Devonport Wharf at 10am on Friday 25 October.
The boats race in eight race divisions categorised by size and speed. A chance to win an Audi A1 is one of the feature prizes, along with another $30,000 of technological and marine related gear from sponsors that include PIC Insurance Brokers, B&G, Jackson Electrical Industries Limited, Yachting New Zealand, Dirty Dog, Elf Oils, Musto, Mount Gay Rum, Railblaza, and PredictWind.com.
The PIC Insurance Brokers Coastal Classic is organised by the New Zealand Multihull Yacht Club. Boat tracking, commentary, sked times, photos and video will be available from race start on www.coastalclassic.co.nz.
TeamVodafoneSailing (Simon Hull) on the Waitemata Harbour, October 23, 2013