Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Auckland to Fiji Race : Clock Main Opponent for Fleet Racing to Musket Cove

Image copyright Suellen Hurling and

by Zoe Hawkins and the RNZYS

With no two boats being alike in the Auckland to Musket Cove, Fiji Ocean Race starting on 1 June, every member of the fleet will be racing the clock.

Starting with the quickest, the fleet’s only multihull, TeamVodafoneSailing set the race record of 103 hours and 20 minutes two years ago, but conditions were light that year, and the big red trimaran hopes to shave hours if not days off its best time on the Musket Cove course in 2013.

TeamVodafoneSailing is 60 foot long, 60 foot wide, and is a proven, seaworthy and race hardened vessel that dwarfs the other starters. It would take gear failure or bad tactical decisions for any of the keelboats to beat TeamVodafoneSailing to Fiji, but in sailing you never say never, and there are are three potential contenders for this honour:

Venture 2 is owned by Steve Chapman and skippered with the support of Rodney Keenan, who is a highly respected and experienced Auckland based sailor behind many serious New Zealand and international challenges. The boat was skippered by Graham Dalton in his round the world bid, and has been renamed, refitted and made ready for this, its first offshore race under Chapman’s ownership. The boat has a canting keel and water ballast, and will be a serious rival to David Nathan’s V5.

V5 will carry a mix of youth and experience to Fiji, including Olympic Silver Medallist Blair Tuke, Volvo Ocean Race veteran Justin Ferris, Mike Boyd, Wayne MIlls, owner David Nathan, and a tribe of young, keen lads. The boat is fitted with a swing keel and many high tech features and has enough successes on the race course for watchers to know that the boat is serious, especially in strong downwind or reaching conditions.

The third is Equilibrium. Several feet longer than the others, but slightly heavier and designed to give its passengers a more comfortable ride, the Marten 55 is a technical boat that was launched in 2011, comes from the drawing board of Botin & Carkeek and is now fitted with twin rudders. In heavier upwind conditions, this boat will be serious, and its crew members, including Rob Bassett, Christian Stimson and Ross Vickers, will ensure it has every chance of a successful result.

Quintin Fowler, owner and skipper of the First 45 Outrageous Fortune, has his eye on keeping close enough to the bigger members of the fleet to leave him with a shot at a handicap prize, especially if it is a solid upwind race. In downwind conditions, he considers the smaller, lighter boats such as Squealer and Atom Ant, to be strong contenders. This will be the fourth long offshore race for Fowler and his crew, including the challenging Sydney to Hobart.

Perhaps no boat carries more offshore experience onboard than Wildcard. The 15.2m cruiser-racer designed by Carl Schumacher was built by the Lodge family, and will carry three generations onboard. Ray Lodge, and his sons Michael and Andrew, have sailed across the Tasman eight times, and are joined by Ray's grandson.

For the eight sailors from Tauranga that will race the 10.5m Squealer to Fiji, this race is the culmination of a ten year dream. The boat has been made race ready over a period of time, and carries a large wardrobe of spinnakers and gennakers that they hope to use strategically for an excellent handicap result.

Atom Ant is the smallest boat in the fleet, and will be sailed by its owner, 18-year old Cory McLennan of Greymouth, and his crewmate, 16 year old Edwin Delaat of Auckland, who will also be the only two handed entry in the fleet. The race will be an endurance challenge for the two young men, who both have significant experience to their names.

It’s not about the race for only cruising entrant in the event, a 56ft Denis Ganley cruiser called Vision, but the blue water passage is a bucket list item for many of the crew.

“We wish all entrants the best in the race to Musket Cove,” RNZYS Commodore Steve Burrett. “We know the Resort will put on quite a welcome to them on arrival and we wish all a safe passage.”

The 1,150 mile marathon starts off Westhaven Marina in Auckland at 10am on Saturday 1 June, and finishes at the resort of Musket Cove in Fiji. The race is supported by Manson Anchors,, and TNL GAC Pindar, and all boats will carry a Yellowbrick Tracker with them on the race course, so that you can see where they are up to at any time by visiting the website for this (TBA on the RNZYS website closer to the start time of the race).