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Evolution Sails Sail Noumea 2012 race labelled toughest for 20 years

by Suellen Hurling on 11 Jun 2012
V5 pictured at the start of the Evolution Sails Sail Noumea 2012 race Richard Gladwell

Evolution Sails Sail Noumea 2012 officially ended after 8 days, 1 hours, 32 minutes and 53 seconds when Iolanthe II crossed the finish line in Noumea on the 10th of June just after 3pm NZST.

The ocean race which started in near windless conditions on Auckland harbour was labelled by competitors at the finish line as one of the most challenging to leave New Zealand in the last 20 years.

Two days of light winds after the start gave way to, at times, ferocious headwinds which took its toll on the 17 starters.

Kark Kwok’s 80 foot maxi monohull Beau Geste was the first to retire from the race with structural damage. The crew of Beau Geste called Taupo Maritime Radio just before 7pm on Monday the fourth of June from a position some 100nm east south east of Norfolk Island. The call was quickly upgraded to a Pan Pan when the crew realised the boat had a lateral crack across the deck which extended down both sides of the hull to the waterline.

The New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre quickly took control of the incident and requested a Norfolk Island fishing boat offer any possible assistance. A 175m bulk freighter on route from New Zealand to Noumea was also diverted to provide assistance and a NZRAF Orion was put on standby. It was feared that the yacht might sink before making Norfolk Island. The 18 strong crew of the Beau Geste displayed magnificent seamanship in working to keep the hull together and managed to safely reach Norfolk by 6am on Tuesday morning.

The tough conditions also resulted in sea sickness for many sailors. The crew of Cotton Blossom 2 were particularly affected and decided at 10.52am on Tuesday the fourth of June to retire from the race and return to New Zealand.

At 8.59pm NZST the big red 60 foot Orma trimaran of Team Vodafone Sailing crossed the finish line in Noumea to record a new Multihull race record of 3 days 6 hours 59 minutes and 50 seconds. Owner and skipper, Simon Hull, said that he was '...pleased with the result but would be back next time to try and break the outright race record.'

About an hour after Team Vodafone Sailing finished the race the Kerr40 Ice Breaker reported loose keel bolts and advised they would make for Norfolk Island to shelter and make repairs. At 12.23pm on Wednesday the sixth of June Icebreaker reported a '...broken front bulkhead..' and via sat phone requested '... please get an escort for us. We will communicate by text'. The issue was upgraded to a Pan Pan and the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre swung into action again taking control of the incident.

Starlight Express which was returning to New Zealand after earlier in the day retiring from the race suffering mainsail and main luff track damage was tasked with diverting to Ice Breakers position to offer assistance.

After 36 hours of slow progress to windward both Icebreaker and Starlight Express made landfall at Norfolk Island safely, much to the relief of race management and worried crew’s families. On reaching Norfolk Island Icebreaker officially retired from the race and set about making repairs to the boat.

Marten 49 Carerra also withdrew from the race and returned to Auckland after suffering water damage to the yachts inverter and failure of electrical systems.

While the mid race drama was unfolding for five of the yachts the remainder of the fleet was making steady progress towards the Noumea finish line.

First Monohull to cross the line was David Nathan’s TP52 V5 which had sailed an outstanding tactical race to beat Cookson 50 Akatea and Opua based TP52 Kia Kaha. V5 was awarded the Jack White Memorial Ocean Race Shield for first monohull on line and the Alexander Percy Trophy for first on PHRF handicap.

Second across the line was the Gary Lewis skippered Cookson 50 Akatea beating Kia Kaha by just one hour and 29 minutes after more than five days of racing. Akatea took IRC honours and was awarded the Auckland to Noumea Trophy plus a $1,000 cash prize.

All the yachts which finished the race were greeted warmly by the team of volunteers from RAYC and the Cercle Nautique Caledonien yacht club. Each boat was allocated a local 'God Father' who delivered a generous basket of local produce and beverages to the boats when they tied up at the marina. Crews were also given an Evolution Sails Sail Noumea 2012 t-shirt which they could change into on arrival and the yacht club bar was opened for post race debrief and drinks.

Royal Akarana Yacht Club would like to thank Taupo Maritime Radio and the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre for their outstanding professionalism and assistance during the race. Special thanks also to the large team of amazing volunteers from CNC yacht club who worked around the clock to finish yachts and warmly welcomed all crews to Noumea.

Finally, RAYC wish to thank all owners, skippers, and crews for their entry and outstanding seamanship throughout the race.


First Multihull and new Multihull race record

Team Vodafone Sailing, Simon Hull, 3 days 6 hours 59 minutes and 50 seconds

First Monohull

V5, David Nathan, 5 days 3 hours, 11 minutes, and 23 seconds

IRC Handicap

Akatea, Gary Lewis
Rikki, Ray Haslar
Kia Kaha, Chris Hornell

PHRF Handicap

V5, David Nathan
Elysium, Humphrey Sherratt
Bullrush, Anthony Robinson

Best performance by a 42 foot yacht or smaller

Rikki, Ray Hasler

Media Award

Kia Kaha, Chris Hornell

All results are available online at

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