Anna and Aaron – its an addiction

Doyle Sails customers and sailing power couple Anna and Aaron sat down during Auckland’s lockdown to give us an insight into their sailing, boat and sailing goals.

After we finished SSANZ Enduro 2020 short haul division where we got our first podium = 1st line, 2nd phrf

One of the coolest things about this sport we love, is being able to share the incredible moments and the spirit of adventure and discovery with one another. Sailing certainly is a lifestyle and we are stoked to be lucky enough to call it a passion of ours. 

Anna’s always been around the water, and thanks to her father’s love of sailing she grew up on boats with her family. Starting off from a young age in the keelboat scene has given Anna a vast amount of experience that means she is right at home out on the water. A plus when you’re off the coast and the unexpected rears its head – she’s able to keep cool and calm and get straight to work on executing a solution.

Aaron’s had a similar upbringing, with the sea and water sports playing a massive role in his childhood. From boating with the grandparents as a kid to swimming, waterpolo, kayaking, water skiing, and sailing, he’s always been close to the water. Dinghy sailing was the most accessible to Aaron as a youngster and from a young age he shot through the junior classes as one of the top contenders from a windy Welly.

How you guys got into sailing?

Anna / I grew up on boats with my family. My parents were always keen on getting my sisters and I involved in water sports, sailing in particular. Since being young I have always stuck to that whether it be swimming, triathlons, rowing, surf lifesaving and of course sailing which is the one that I chose to pursue the furthest.

Aaron / I started sailing at the age of 7 down at our local sailing club in Welly after our family friends suggested Learn to Sail to mum and dad. They had spent a lot of time over the years on and around the water skiing and fishing, but sailing was new to us. Naturally, my two younger sisters followed suit and before long the whole family was out on the water in Optis and Sunbursts, racing against and with one another.

A quick history of your sailing careers to date.

Anna / I started out in the Opti & Sunburst along with cruising & racing keelboats. I then went onto join the RNZYS Youth Training Programme for three years from 2014 to 2017. After graduating from YTP I joined the Clockwork Racing team where I competed in my first offshore race doing the Groupama Race and delivery home to NZ in 2018. It was such an insane race and I can’t wait to be able to do it again one day. I also sailed with the 2.0 Womens Match Racing Team where we have competed in womens and open one design events since 2019-current as the RNZYS Performance Programme. Aaron and I also race on Southern Fun for all of our two handed sailing, along with both sailing with Clockwork team on the new Melges 40. More recently I have also started sailing the 49FX where Aaron has taken on more of a coach role for Bex & I too. Can never have too much sailing!!

Aaron / I sailed all the usual dinghies growing up, with a bit of keelboat racing on the side. The junior classes are always dictated a bit by the timing of your growth spurts so it meant a short stint in the P Class and Starling before stepping up to the Laser. I was racing the Laser nationally and internationally for around 8 years and during that time was part of the Yachting New Zealand youth squad, represented NZ at numerous events around the world and was lucky to see places I would never have imagined travelling to otherwise. I took a little time off from the Laser and an opportunity popped up to sail the 49er. Back at it again, the 49er has been one of the most exciting classes I’ve raced combining physicality with agility and athleticism. It was shortly after my second campaign in the 49er where I joined the Performance Programme (PP) at the RNZYS, not the usual pathway into the program but I was enticed with the thrill of sailing some exciting boats and taking part in some team events locally and overseas. As a result of joining the PP, I was given the opportunity to sail with the NZ Extreme team as part of the Extreme Sailing Series which was an awesome experience, the GC32s are certainly a heck of a lot of fun.

Start of ssanz 100nm race 2020

Your sailing highlight to date for you both.

Anna / The 100nm SANZ race 2020, it was only our second ever two handed race and second ever race together. It was absolutely honking and we had no idea what the boat was capable of. Being up against all the modern new race boats, we were one of the oldest and slower boats in our fleet, so we knew that anytime we were keeping up with them, we’d be doing well. The downwind was epic in the pitch black evening coming across from coromandel and the reach to Kawau really got the upper body working hard fighting the oh so wonderfully loaded rudder. It was an awesome achievement for us with over 40knots and the boat felt great in the swell and high winds. There is something about the challenge of competitively racing a tricky boat with only two people, it’s indescribable.

Aaron / The recent SSANZ 100nm with Anna is probably my biggest highlight to date where once again it was honking just like the 2020 edition. It’s even more of an achievement in tough conditions given Southern Fun is a boat certainly not designed to be sailed short handed! Getting the old girl up and boogying takes a little horse power but flat off out the back of Waiheke it was blowing between 28-35 knots and with the chicken shoot up and one tuck in the main we were off! It was carnage with boats wiping out in all directions around us adding to the adrenaline. Knowing that everything on an incredibly manually laborious boat has to be executed by just the two of you while planning along at over 16 knots also adds to the mix and means there’s a lot at stake with every decision.

Is your crew professional, amateur or a mixture of both? How long has your crew sailed together?  

We are amateur racers on SF, but we also love to cruise the boat together too. We have sailed together on Clockwork for three years now, also made up of an amateur crew, and we have really gelled together, learning from one another and utilising each others unique style of sailing.

What was the thought process behind the new boat? What was the driving force behind creating something like you have?

Initially, Aaron was just interested in finding a boat around 30ft that he could race and cruise with friends and family. It was really by chance that he managed to settle on Southern Fun, which in the end has ticked all the boxes for us and enabled his parents to also share ownership and experience some of the adventures with us! Southern Fun has been in Aaron’s extended family since the day Ian franklin (Frankie) built it down south back in the 1980s and after a long history of records and race wins, he was keen to see a younger generation of the family continue to campaign it. Doing my best not to be biased, the boat was built to a very high standard. I suppose when you utilise your passion and skill to build something for yourself you make sure no stone is left unturned. The spec and style of boat gives a lot of options for us to tweak settings and play with controls making it a challenge and a half for us to sail 2-up, but that’s what we do it for, and the rewards of getting the tuning right are pretty evident when she’s fully balanced and trucking along! 

What is the draw card to Doyle Sails?

Doyle Sails are at the top of the sail making game and being a 100% NZ owned and operated business we were very excited to work with them right from the outset. Aaron has had a longstanding relationship with several staff there also and we’ve always felt they have shown a keen interest and offered genuine advice to support us, which is really what we were after. After his experience having signed Doyle as partners with the Russell Coutts Sailing Foundation back in 2018, he had seen the excellent service delivered by them first hand which was a definite drawcard to stay loyal to the team. Knowing your sailmaker will take the time to get to know you and your needs gives you confidence for a longstanding product outcome and relationship too. Lastly, we should mention price because ultimately adding to the sail wardrobe is a pretty big commitment we have to make as boat owners. Doyle Sails offer a range of products that are well known to be very reasonably priced for the quality you receive in comparison with other options out there.

What’s important to you guys onboard or throughout your programme – what has made it work for you? 

A lot of people don’t like or avoid racing with their partners as all sailors know sh*t happens quickly on yachts and stress levels can get…high shall we say!  But we seem to have a really good balance and know each others strengths and play to them. We just go out to have fun and enjoy every moment, and push ourselves to our limits along the way. It’s important to always know you both have the same goal being onboard together, so neither of you would make a wrong decision by choice. We’re both doing our best and as long as you trust that, prepare well and be respectful, although there might be heated moments, you still come out the other side smiling at the achievement! As we start to learn the boat more and have the confidence to push ourselves and the boat further we find ourselves very able to hold onto the fleet too which gives us the confidence to try new things and perfect our maneuvers and processes. Now all we need are some sails from this decade which we are chomping at the bit for!

Any tips for new owners or people looking at potentially creating something similar to what you and Anna have? 

Find a boat that meets your needs, for us its something we can race competitively but also take away for the summer and enjoy the epic NZ cruising! It’s about all the experiences and memories it provides for us! You don’t need to fork out ridiculous sums to get the experience, but it’s all relative and depends what your priorities are. For us, we are young and physically fit, so not having a dedicated anchor and windlass in the forepeak is harder work, but not a deal breaker. So we don’t need to spend money in that area…just yet! We would also say look at going into a partnership with someone. We have lots of friends that co share boats and it seems to work well, plus balance the running costs which are the most important to factor in when looking at a boat.

Cruising great barrier – SF anchored in background

What keeps you coming back to yachting? 

We both agree, it’s a bit of an addiction. The more you do it the more you want it! Every time you leave the dock it’s a new experience and it’s a new milestone to achieve and memory to create!

Where to from here? What races have you got on the watchlist, or would love to take part in? 

We have a few things lined up, sadly the PIC Coastal Classic was cancelled and we were also meant to be doing the 500nm Three Kings race on the TP52 Kia Kaha which has been postponed until next year.  Hopefully Bay Week on Clockwork (the Melges40) can go ahead in January as planned and then the big one! The Northern Triangle on Southern Fun for our biggest two handed test yet and hopefully our first race with our new Doyle Sails main, we can’t wait!!! Fingers crossed the race can go ahead as this will also be used as our qualifier for the 2023 Round North Island

“Aaron and I are after a challenge. An opportunity to put our knowledge and skills to the test while we continue to develop our combined experience of and love for the ocean. Together we carry a wealth of experience and the more we sail with one another, the more we want to keep sharing these epic adventures. Thanks for your interest in our journey!”

FOLLOW THEIR JOURNEY // Aaron and Anna’s sailing Facebook page here

ABOUT DOYLE SAILS // For close to four decades, Doyle Sails has supported sailors, committing to deliver custom sail solutions to those that seek the same enjoyment, performance and adventure as we do. Doyle Sails is home to the best sailors and sailmakers in the world. In every sailing hub, you will find your local Doyle Sails loft nearby, where the quality, performance and customer service that you have come to expect from Doyle Sails can be found. Learn more here.