The 2021 Bay of Islands Sailing Week will be refocusing on the needs of its core big boat fleets as organisers begin the task of planning for January's four-day regatta.
The announcement coincides with the organising committee’s decision not to run racing for the Weta and Tornado classes as they have in recent years, due to safety concerns and limited on-water resources during the week.
Outgoing chairwoman Manuela Gmuer-Hornell says over the years the availability of chase boats, which are generously provided by local yacht clubs, organisations and volunteers, has declined.
“In the past we’ve welcomed the likes of the Weta and Tornado fleets but the challenge of securing on-water safety boats has reached a point where we just can’t provide these competitors with adequate safety,” Gmuer-Hornell said.
Committee member Phil Webb said running races for Wetas and Tornados alongside larger boats is tricky and directs resources away from the yachts the regatta was created for.
“Because they don’t have an auxiliary motor, they really should have a dedicated safety boat,” he said. “We’ve seen the fleet so spread out that we can’t see all the boats, so a tailender could easily be overlooked, have no tow home and not be accounted for. But we just don’t have enough boats or volunteers to run a safety boat.
“The Wetas would be much better suited to a course in the inner harbour, but the harbourmaster had concerns over safety with the amount of traffic at that time of year. And it would take another complete on-water crew as well, which we just don’t have.”
Gmuer-Hornell said the decision, while not an easy one, would allow organisers to put more resources into delivering a world-class regatta for keelboats, larger multihulls, trailer yachts and sport boats.
“We want to be an inclusive regatta, but we can’t be everything to everyone,” she said. “We’re going back to our roots and we think it’s going to make it even better for the big boats the event was created for."
Bay of Islands Sailing Week is scheduled to take place from January 26-29, 2021. The event, described by Peter Montgomery as “the best big-boat regatta in New Zealand”, welcomed a record-breaking 141 entries earlier this year.