by Jon Henry
Blink - 2014 Two handed Round North Island Race
The next and seventh addition of the Round North Island yacht race (RNI) gets underway on Saturday eighth February 2014.
Organised and run by SSANZ (Shorthanded Sailing Association of NZ) interest is high in the extremely challenging event. There is a diverse range of yachts entered in the race from 8.5m sports boats to several brand new 50+ ft production performance cruisers.
Round North Island yacht race is regarded by many as one of the toughest yacht races in the world with the inaugural race won by Sir Peter Blake in 1977 and this time iconic yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston had wished to compete, however due to a conflict of dates he is unable.
The fleet starts in Auckland with a sprint race to Mangonui where the fleet gets a 24hr pit stop. From there the fleet heads around North Cape out of the Pacific Ocean and into the Tasman sea for the journey down the rugged West Coast, through Cook Straight and into Wellington for a well-earned 48hr stopover.
2014 Two handed Round North Island Race
There are a few social activities planned for the stopovers like a Craft Beer trail in Wellington, to capture the local culture and unite the crews and the various support teams. With half the race under their belts the crews all have plenty to talk about and the bragging or excuses could go on late into the night. Once recovered from the shore based activities the fleet heads around the notorious Cape Palliser and up the Wairarapa coast towards Napier for the third and final stopover. Napier provides another 48hr stopover to enjoy the sunshine and hospitality the Hawkes Bay has to offer and make the most of the now infamous Wine Tour which is a must do event on the RNI. From there the fleet races around East Cape and into the Bay of Plenty. From here it gets very tactical with plenty of islands to go around, tidal influences and wind shifts. Stakes are high as the race is often won or lost on the final leg.
Finishing within the Waitamata Harbour the crews get a chance to catch up and compare tactical decisions on the race while awaiting the final results. The very nature of this type of racing is the different conditions will suit different boats and they are bound to get a good range of both.
Wayne Woods with prolific yacht designer Greg Elliott as co skipper will be racing in Wayne’s new Elliott 35SS Bushido which sports all the latest ‘go fast’ technology, including a canting keel. Bushido was built with just one thing in mind –SPEED, and as a result, has no compromises for comfort. Wayne and Greg have a list of sailing achievements far too long to write but they will no doubt be a contender for line honours against some much larger but more comfortable yachts. A yacht built with more comfort in mind is White Gold, one of the largest yachts in the fleet. Wally and Tony Baker will be sailing Wally's brand new Bavaria 56 White Gold. The name is a reference to Wally’s background as a Dairy Farmer in Turua, but don’t be fooled these two have plenty of sea miles to their name with Tony having raced around the North island twice before.
The largest yacht in the fleet with probably the most sea miles is the Beneteau Oceanis 58 Laissez-faire with owner skipper Mack Story and co skipper Nils Loodin. Laissez-Faire was commissioned new in Italy last year and has recently sailed down to NZ for the race. This will be Mack’s third time competing in as many RNI races. There is some serious experience here and they could be a boat to watch.
Another newcomer to NZ is Laurie Needham’s new X Yacht XP44 Lawless. With very experienced Rodney Keenan as co skipper and an impressive result in the 2013 Coastal Classic, Lawless could certainly be a contender for handicap victory.
The entries for this popular race were limited to 30 and within 2 weeks of the entries opening there were 34 registered boats. That has reduced to 28 confirmed starters now with 2 spots still open. With such a wide range of yachts entered there will be without doubt a good number of similar yachts for everyone to race against.
Tick this one off your bucket list and get involved now!