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Lion NZ offers chance of a lifetime for seafaring youth in Fiji Race

by Zoe Hawkins on 17 Mar 2013
"Lion New Zealand" heads South at the start of the 65th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2009. - 65th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2009 Howard Wright /IMAGE Professional Photography

Young people aged sixteen and over will have a unique opportunity to undertake their first offshore race experience aboard one of ocean racing’s most stalwart veterans, Lion New Zealand, in the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron’s Ocean Race to Musket Cove, Fiji, in June.

A voyage on the boat has already kick started the offshore sailing career of Cory McLennan.

Lion is an 80 foot maxi yacht that was Sir Peter Blake’s entry in the 1985-86 Whitbread Around the World race, and which now, under the New Zealand Sailing Trust, serves the purpose of providing experiences and opportunities for young New Zealanders, to ensure the future of New Zealand’s maritime industry, and preserving Sir Peter Blake’s legacy.

'We are looking for 15 young people and this will be the trip of a lifetime,' says NZ Sailing Trust General Manager, Erin McKenna,

Erin and the NZ Sailing Trust hope that yacht clubs will support their youth sailors in fundraising, to pay the $3,500 contribution towards the cost of hiring experienced crew, insurance and boat requirements, and for the return airfare. The trip will take about seven days all up.

'There is also the delivery back for which we will be seeking crew,' she says. 'For both trips, participants will take part in all aspects of sailing, including night shifts, cooking and cleaning.'

18-year old Cory McLennan voyaged offshore aboard Lion New Zealand two years ago, has since bought his own boat and has ambitions to race offshore under his own steam. He has already entered the Solo Tasman Challenge scheduled for 2014 and will race to Musket Cove if he can prepare the boat in time.

'I had a great time on Lion and it reinforced that I wanted to do ocean sailing, and I learned so much in the process,' says Cory, who through the race met Doug and Vonnie France, who own the well known cruiser racer Cotton Blossom II and joined their crew.

'If it wasn’t for Lion I would never have met Doug and Vonnie, and led into what I am doing now, which is a career in the yachting industry.'

Cory, who grew up on a farm in the South Island and sailed dinghies and trailer sailers since primary school, is currently completing his sailmaking apprenticeship at Doyle Sails in Auckland. 'We were on the West Coast so I couldn’t just go to the nearest marina to go sailing. Lion New Zealand opened the door for me,' he says. 'Sir Peter Blake has always been my idol and it was amazing to have my first offshore voyage on his boat.'

The Auckland-Fiji race, which commences for the Racing Division on 1 June 2013, will start off Westhaven Marina in Auckland, New Zealand, and includes a cruising rally that will start from Auckland and Opua. The 1,150 mile race will finish in the resort of Musket Cove, which is known for a high standard of marina and berthing facilities, and a great place to celebrate the race finish and enjoy a holiday.

A Notice of Race, Sailing Instructions, and Expression of Interest form is available on the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron website,, or by calling Melanie Benton on 09 360 6809. The race is supported by Manson Anchors,, Events Clothing, and TNL GAC Pindar.

Enquiries about sailing on Lion should be directed to Erin McKenna, tel. 09 215 0762 or 021 333 816.

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