The iconic Shorthanded Sailing Association of New Zealand (SSANZ) Round North Island race starts this Saturday morning local time, with 34 boats forming the fleet, all vying to win one of New Zealand’s most prestigious offshore races.
The race has had a few slight changes, with Cyclone Gabrielle wreaking devasting havoc on parts of New Zealand, and the country still in a national state of emergency. The contingency plan for the race has come into action with yachts now racing from Auckland to Mangonui in a shake-down leg, from there heading around the top of New Zealand before heading down the western side of the island, right through to Picton at the top of the South Island.
The original course was then from Picton to Napier, on the east coast of the North Island before starting the final leg into Auckland, however, due to the lack of resources on the ground and displaced communities along the eastern coast of New Zealand the decision has been made to no longer stop in Napier.
The intention is for the fleet to take the preferred route up the east coast to complete the circumnavigation, but the option remains for the race committee to change the course to return back up the more vulnerable, west coast. The final leg from Waikawa to Auckland is approx. 560nm long and will complete the 1200nm race.
Like any offshore race, there has been no shortage of preparation ahead of race day – last week we focused on Doyle Sails’ own Brand and Operations Manager Harri Wren who is taking on this event with co-skipper and partner Peron Pearse, racing onboard their Ross 930, Start Me Up. Fitted with a new Doyle A2 they are ready to take on this challenge.
On board Drinks Trolley, a Thompson 30, is Doyle Sails Auckland sailmaker, Nick Gardiner; this will be his second Round North Island this time he has teamed up with his Dad. The duo from Blenheim have spent many years racing in Queen Charlotte Sounds, with Nick commenting, “Doyle Sails have supported my involvement in the race, allowing me to build a new Masthead Code Zero and A2. I am very much looking forward to sailing into home waters with my dad”.
Doyle-powered Equilibrium, a Botin Carkeek design built in 2011 by Lloyd Stevenson with a displacement of 13,000kg, a lifting keel and a beautiful cruising interior. She has raced coastal, two-handed, triple series and offshore however, this will be her first Round North Island race; sailing her this time is Peter Geary and Angus Small, who have completed seven races between them.
Guy Pilkington and David Whyman on board Stewart 34 Playbuoy, will both be taking part in their first Round North Island race, although neither Guy or David are short of experience, the race has been on their bucket list for some time.
Dave convinced friend and fellow Aucklander Guy Pilkington, owner of Playbuoy, to compete in this edition of RNI.
“I have sailed on Playbuoy since 1990 with Roy Dickson – I’ve sailed offshore, including Sydney to Hobart races, Auckland to Noumea and Auckland to Fiji. My wife Jane and I enjoy racing and cruising Playbuoy with our four children. I was the RNZYS YTP coach for 12 years, local Doyle Sails rep and now work for Harken,” said Guy Pilkington, “two years ago, we added a Carbon prod to be able to fly our new Doyle Sails Cableless Code Zero and have also added an A2 to the sail inventory.”
Vixen, co-skippered by Scott Fickling and James Tucker, is a Class 40 (Verdier Design), Fickling will be into his second RNI race. Vixen has a full inventory of Doyle Sails Stratis and flying sails on board.
Josh Adams sailing with Ryan Parkin on board Serena, Adams has done the previous two RNI Races, 2020 with Ryan on Serena, and 2017 with his Father on his previous boat Vela Via which was also powered by Doyle Sails. Serena has an (almost) full Doyle Sails Stratis inventory, working closely with Doyle Sails Auckland’s Andy Pilcher to ensure configurations have been well considered.
“We’ve done a lot of work with Ryan and Josh on developing the sails for Serena over the past few years. Before the 2020 RNI Race, we built some Stratis Jibs and an Offshore Mainsail with 3 Reefs and a standard IRC-style roach profile. Then in 2021 we built a new Stratis SquareTop Inshore Mainsail, and the improvement in performance and handling was so noticeable that the guys declared they wanted a SquareTop for Offshore too! Fortunately, the existing Offshore Main that we built for the previous RNI Race was still in excellent condition. So instead of having to build a whole new sail, we were able to design and laminate a new SquareTop head section and splice it onto the sail just above the 3rd reef. In addition to the upwind sails, the boys also have a couple of “CableLess” Code Zeros to help them around the North Island. It’s been a pleasure working with Josh & Ryan, and we wish them all the best of luck for the race, ” said Pilcher
Whichway, a Laurie Davidson 16m sloop, launched in 1999 has raced locally and offshore. This past year she has been given a birthday by co-skippers Bruce Gault and David Brooke ahead of the RNI, they have a new Stratis Mainsail & Storm Trysail, after the race they will move into cruising mode with a tour of the Pacific Islands.
Doyle-powered Wired will be one to watch on this year’s edition of the RNI with the record to beat, winning all 4 legs on the line in RNI 2020. However, the crew has changed for this year’s race, with owner Rob Bassett handing over the reins to his son Chris (Bozz) Bassett who will co-skipper with Andrew (Tiny) Duff. Wired is a Bakewell White 50ft with a canting keel and has raced most local coastal and offshore races over the past 16 years. Both crew are fully immersed in the yachting world and have many ocean miles accumulated between them.
Southern Fun is another Laurie Davidson-designed yacht, built by Ian Franklin in Christchurch in the early 80’s. She’s hard to miss with her classic lines and bright red hull, co-skippered by Anna Merchant and Aaron Hume-Merry, this young couple have been regulars in SSANZ races along with some cruising between.
“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 when ordering our new mainsail, which is really what we were after,” said Merchant
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