New Zealand will host 2000 sailors for The Coastal Classic Yacht Race in the Bay of Islands

A quaint historic village, with a permanent population of 700, in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands is preparing itself for an onslaught of sailors in just under one week.

The town, Russell – once called ‘The Hellhole of the Pacific’ in the 19th century as a place where sailors and traders spent their weekend leave – will host up to 2000 sailors when the 23rd HSBC Coastal Classic Yacht Race starting from Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour finishes at Russell Wharf.

Around 250 yachts will line up for the start of the 119nm course which is New Zealand’s premier fleet yacht race and has been held annually on the Labour weekend since its inception in 1982.

With a wide variety of entries ranging from 30m to 6.5m in length, some of this year’s big names include Stewart Thwaites New Zealand supermaxi Konica Minolta, who has just returned from Australia after taking line honours in this year’s Ingles Sydney to Gold Coast Race and competing in the Hahn Premium Race Week held at the picturesque Whitsunday Islands and Sir Peter Blake’s 1985 Whitbread Round the World Challenger ‘Lion New Zealand’. A strong contingency of multihulls will provide stiff competition for the mono’s to see who will claim line honours and amongst other prizes, be the proud owner of a gallon of Mount Gay Rum (which if calculation serves me correctly equates to around 127 rum and cokes!)

Jon Vincent, skipper of the 55 foot multihull X-Factor, would have been favourite to take the gallon of rum, but with the likes of Konica Minolta in this years race he may have to buy his own.

Brian Carter, New Zealand Multihull Yacht Club spokesperson said: “In a northerly blast, where swell from the sea will slow down the multihulls, Konica Minolta certainly has the waterline length to outsail the big multis.” He continued: “However, this is not the breeze we need to see new records set. A northerly exposes competitors to the most risk of damage.” The fastest overall record for a multihull is 7 hours, 20 minutes and 51 seconds, at an average speed of approximately 17 knots for the duration of the trip.

Vincent explains: “In terms of the race I’m quietly confident that, breakages aside, we can put time on the maxis. If the weather gods have the right cards to play then we’ll see a strong south westerly for the first 100 miles with the wind backing to south or even a move to south east or east for the last 25 miles.” He continued: “In such circumstances we’ll average 20-22 knots and be in the bar for afternoon tea – well here’s hoping.” Joining Vincent aboard X-Factor will be ex-Team NZ sailor Chris Salthouse.

The eldest entrant in this year’s HSBC Coastal Classic is not a K-Class or even an A-Class but a group of four sailing pensioners calling themselves the Ancient Mariners. The group of four sailors, two of whom are aged over seventy will be sailing Milady Candida. Owner of six years Dave Beauchamp says: “We didn’t know how to sail when we bought her”, Dave laughs, explaining that he only began learning to sail when he was 68 having previously spent a number of years in the merchant service.

Reporter for, Melinda Aldridge, who is Australian based, will be heading across to New Zealand to compete in her first Classic aboard the supermaxi Konica Minolta. She has been given one piece of advice for her virgin ride aboard a supermaxi coming from Nicorette maxi Project Manager, Craig Malouf, “watch your fingers”. That indeed she will.

The Classic commences at 1000 on Friday 22nd October.