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02 Jun 2013
Sail-World New Zealand: June 2, 2013 - Anyone for Fiji?
Now in its 58th year the Auckland to Fiji Race got underway, yesterday, with a fleet of just six yachts crossing the line off the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, and destined for Musket Cove.
They look to be headed for some interesting weather with a tropical low to the right and an advancing front to the left.
With some astute navigation, we think that the competitors might be able to avoid the worst of it, and could turn in some fast times, despite getting off to a slow start.
In the media boat on the way back, the discussion turned to the numbers of entries and the reasons for the decline.
Certainly the Global Financial Crisis has some impact. But the reality is that bringing the boats up to the required level of safety is daunting, and while safety standards have become more stringent, the entry numbers have declined.
Previously design obsolescence is cited as a reason for a decline in racing numbers. But one of Auckland's top yachts is the Bakewell-White designed 50fter, Wired, now in her eighth year. She's due to go back into the shed for another refit - this time to remove her original interior, and reducing her weight by 1.5tonnes. That is a massive change, and one that should make her more than competitive in an already hot fleet.
Also there has been a big growth in entries with other events, such as the Simrad Shorthanded Series and the Coastal Classic, which weren't around in the 1960's and early 70's.
Then the entry numbers for the Noumea and Fiji races would average about 30 boats, and the competition would be the talk of the town.
Looking internationally, the scene is different. The numbers in the Rolex Sydney Hobart while still reduced from pre-1998 levels, when several lives were lost, are creeping back up. And the event has certainly lost none of its impact with the public and local media.
In England, the Rolex Fastnet Race was oversubscribed on the initial entry cap of 300 boats, and were later re-opened. That too, comes against the backdrop of the 1979 race in which 15 lives were lost.
From both races safety standards were improved substantially around the world. Totalling up the lives that have been lost in New Zealand Races, or the return is certainly a sobering exercise, and well into double digits, and against that statistic no-one could seriously argue for a reduced safety standard to lift entries.
Both races are coastal in nature, with stop-off points if it all turns to custard for any reason. The NZ based races are all trans-oceanic - which is much more serious, and often there is no going back. Maybe the Auckland to Bluff race, being largely coastal, will have more appeal.
But of those we know in the Auckland to Fiji race, all were fizzing before the start, and looking forward to the challenges ahead.
Two of the principal safety factors in any race, off shore or inshore, are having access to a good weather forecast during the race, and an anchor. Fittingly this Auckland to Fiji Race is sponsored by two manufacturers these products. Predictwind is a New Zealand success story, and is absolutely invaluable for anyone who goes to sea - racing in a dinghy, away on a cruise for a day or more, or venturing further offshore. The development of systems such as Predictwind is one of the big differences, between the danger of off shore racing even 10 years ago, and now. Forewarned is certainly forearmed.
Most underrate the importance of an anchor, a good anchor. My father certainly had some novel views on anchoring, and it was a standing family joke that when the wind came up, we took off. Manson Anchors are another New Zealand success story, and they come up shining in every test. New Zealand sailing fans who lived through the build of the fibreglass 12 metres will be only too familiar as to the meaning of Lloyds certification means. Manson have it. You need it in your anchor.
Why is a good anchor so important? Because when you in trouble, it stops you getting into bigger trouble. The old adage of it not being your first mistake that gets you into trouble, but your second or third, is very true on the sea. having a good anchor helps keep the mistake score locked on one. It keeps you in one place, until you can receive assistance if needed. Sure and anchor is not of great assistance mid-ocean, but most disasters happen closer to land - and that is when you need an anchor that will do what is required.
We'll keep updating on the Auckland - Fiji Race, at least daily in Sail-World.com, you can follow the boat's positions on www.rnzys.org.nz
In San Francisco, the AC72's continue to circle and taunt each other. In this edition of Sail-World.com's newsletter we have more AM-Cam video, showing the differences between Oracle Team USA and the two Challengers. Currently the challengers are continuing with their program from Auckland - a mix of straight line sailing and speed development. With Emirates Team NZ we are seeing a little more unsteadiness from what occurred in New Zealand. Whether that is a reflection on the puffy wind conditions, or testing new daggerboards, other developments and techniques, who knows? Their's to know, ours to find out. To help you find out - look at the videos and start picking the differences between the boats.
One thing that Emirates Team NZ have been doing very impressively, is the first reach of the America's Cup course - hitting the mark with speed, and doing beautiful carving gybes, with minimal speed loss during the gybe. The one mark rounding to go upwind is equally impressive. No foiling gybes have been seen - yet.
In the video we have seen, Oracle Team USA are only straight lining, their speed looks excellent. Stability excellent. A way better performance than we saw with the first boat, which struggled to get foiling properly,and then couldn't stay up in the air. The crashes back into the water might have made great photos, but they were not good for speed.
So far we have not seen video of Oracle Team USA doing gybes and turns in a race practice session. A couple of early shots were not impressive, but whether they were training for a gybe or just at the end of a run - who knows?
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