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Headwinds expected for start of true blue water classic on Saturday

by Suellen Hurling on 2 Jun 2012
Icebreaker - Evolution Sails Sail Noumea Suellen Hurling

The Auckland race fleet in the Evolution Sails Sail Noumea 2012 starts off the Royal Akarana Yacht Club, Okahu Bay at 1405 hours on Saturday June 2, 2012

Last week’s dream weather outlook of 20 to 25 knot southerly winds for the start has been replaced with a mix of variable light winds and strong squally conditions as the fleet head north.

Race meteorologist Bob McDavitt has forecast light winds of less than 10 knots for the start under the centre of a high pressure system which is likely to stay with the fleet until Monday. That will be followed by a mixture of challenging conditions.

The race is expected to be predominantly on the wind which means expected line honours leaders Orma 60 multihull Team Vodafone Sailing and 80 foot maxi monohull Beau Geste will be working hard to try and beat the current race records.

Beau Geste crewman and race sponsor Evolution Sails director Rodney Keenan says '…based on the current forecast the race should take the Farr designed maxi 3 days and 20 hours…'. This would mean the monohull race record set by the maxi Zana in 2004 of 2 days, 22 hours, 9 minutes, and 50 seconds would remain intact. But given the changeable weather conditions over the last week anything could happen and Beau Geste remains a real chance of setting a new race record.

The Multihull race record was set in 2002 by Rogntudjuuu in a time of 4 days, 3 hours, 33 minutes, and 22 seconds. Last week trimaran Team Vodafone Sailing were eyeing a race time of less than 2 days! While the forecast may have changed since then the big Orma60 tri remains very much in contention for a new multihull race record.

Forecast on the wind conditions are sure to be a leveller of the fleet, with all boats expected to finish within close proximity of each other. A day out from the race start skippers remain sheepish about predicting race times, but all have commented that the race could take between 4 to 8 days.

Long water line length yachts like the ocean racing legend Steinlager 2 and upwind optimised ocean racers like Starlight Express and Cotton Blossom 2 will relish the up wind conditions. While the newer lighter weight 50 footers including TP52 Kia Kaha, TP52 V5, and Cookson 50 Akatea are also contenders for handicap honours.

One thing is for sure; this instalment of Royal Akarana Yacht Clubs offshore race is set to become a classic. It will throw up plenty of challenges for the navigators, light winds requiring long spells of intense crew concentration, and at times physically punishing big breeze and seas.

The Navy vessel will be anchored just off Orakei Wharf to start the race. Excellent vantage points for spectators to watch all the start action include Tamaki Drive near Kelly Tarlton’s, Bastion Point, and North Head.

Yachts can be followed on the live Evolution Sails Yellow Brick tracker which can be found by following the link from www.sailnoumea.com. The Sail Noumea Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sailnoumea will be updated with race information. Both sites are a great way for spectators, sailors’ family and friends to stay in touch with all the race action.

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