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Urban Land Sailing: NZ Open Champions to be held at Ardmore April 15-18

by Geoff Green 10 Apr 2021 02:12 PDT 10 April 2021
Close competition leading bunch Mark 5 North Island Open Napier 2020 © Geoff Green


The New Zealand Open Championships (NZO), the premier regatta for the Blokart class of land yacht, will be hosted by the Auckland Blokart Club at Ardmore Airport, 15th to 18th April.

The one-design Blokart provides high speed sailing comparable to advanced foiling yachts, on an affordable, low-tech budget.


Designed and built in New Zealand, over 14,000 blokarts have been sold globally. They are popular to race because they are fast, nimble and will pack-down into two bags accepted as check-in baggage by airlines. Prior to Covid, competitive sailors could easily travel overseas with their land yacht to compete in national events, the North American and European Championships, and the World Championships, all run under the umbrella of the International Blokart Racing Association.



Racing is conducted across two classes, Production and Performance, with each class divided into four divisions based on the sailors’ weights. Production karts must be standard, basic karts; only minor modifications are allowed. Performance karts are more highly specified, and more numerous on the racetrack. They are equipped with carbon masts, improved sail controls and fairings that reduce aerodynamic drag and provide protection from the elements. Although some modifications are allowed, all primary equipment - chassis, wheels, pod, mast sections and sails - must be original equipment produced by Blokart International in Tauranga. This provides a fast and lively class of land yacht that remains affordable and can be transported in a family car or light trailer.

The Performance Class speed record is 123 kph (66 knots), recorded while fleet racing on a dry lakebed in America. Like many records, it is an amalgam of maximised and optimised elements; in this case an unexpected burst of strong wind propelling a skilled sailor, who had set and exceeded previous records, across a huge expanse of smooth lakebed. And so, this impressive speed is not indicative of mainstream blokarting in New Zealand.

In New Zealand, speeds of 70 - 85 kph (38 - 45 knots) are often enjoyed on long pavement courses such as Ohakea Airforce Base, and on flat beaches open to the prevailing wind.



When racing on the more compact club tracks located at Ardmore, Tauranga, Sanson, Napier and Wigram, speeds in the 20 - 50 kph range (11-27 knots) are easily achieved, which makes for exciting and challenging sailing when ten to fifteen karts are competing to win the start or closing in on the first mark. Start sequences, lap times and finishes are computerised; an electronic start line records a unique transponder code emitted from each kart. Times are recorded to three decimals of a second, so it is impossible to jump the start without forfeiting a lap and all possibility of a win.

Racing generally becomes viable above 5 knots of true wind, which allows a kart fitted with a big rig to generate nearly 9 knots of apparent wind when sailing upwind. Kart speed is king and sailing shallow gybe angles downwind to preserve the apparent wind speed is a common practice in light weather. Four sail sizes are available, and just like the foiling AC75 yachts, sail choice is important in each crossover wind range, because sail area produces both drive and drag. A smaller sail with less drag may be fastest upwind, but the bigger sail may provide better acceleration, and could be faster downwind.



Auckland Blokart Club’s leased track at Ardmore Airport is the longest of the club tracks in New Zealand, and spectators are welcome to watch at any time throughout the New Zealand Open (airport rules prohibit dogs and drones). Free parking is available on site, admission is free, and safe viewing is available behind a fence immediately adjacent to the racetrack. Spectators can get close to the sailing action and they can watch the karts being prepared in the pits.

More than 50 sailors are expected to compete in the NZO. One overseas entry has been received, down on previous years due to Covid restrictions.

The mix of sailors includes male and female, young and old. Hawkes Bay Blokart Club, the fastest growing blokart club in New Zealand, has a large contingent of emerging teenage sailors. Two, Maddie Sayer (16) and Declan Monk (14), have entered the regatta. Their fathers are also sailing in it.

All clubs have a mix of older sailors, both female and male, and many are still ultra-competitive. Manawatu’s Trevor Register is the current New Zealand Champion in the Performance Middle Weight Division, and he is in contention to win a third national championship at this regatta. If he sailed in a Laser Masters regatta, Trevor would qualify as a 77-year-old Legend, defending his title against all comers.

Quick Facts - Urban Land Sailing, Blokart One Design Class
• New Zealand Open Championships. An annual event last sailed at Ardmore in 2016.
• Venue: Conference Centre, Corsair Lane, Ardmore Airport, Auckland. Sealed track in an area no longer used by aircraft.
• Dates: 15th – 18th April, inclusive
• Racing between 10am and 5pm each day, except Sunday, which concludes at 3pm.
• Races are 6 to 10 minutes long, depending on course length and wind strength.
• Races are quick-fire. As one race starts, competitors in the next race assemble on a grid beside the track.
• Once the fleet is assembled and stationary on the start line, a start sequence of 2 minutes duration is initiated.
• Race officers define the direction of the pre-start dial-up, and which tack the karts must start on.
• Sailors aim to cross the start line on-time and at full speed. Normal yacht racing rules apply after the start and throughout the race.
• Blokarts have seat belts and sailors must wear helmets and gloves. Visors, goggles or glasses are optional but recommended.


Links to information on the internet

Auckland Blokart Club: abc.gen.nz Auckland Blokart Club on facebook: www.facebook.com/aklblokart New Zealand Blokart Association Inc: bai.nz Designer / Builder, Blokart International: blokart.com

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