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NZ Ocean Racing

NZ Ocean Racing team to debut in Coastal Classic

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Like most who take part in the PIC Coastal Classic, Bianca Cook hopes a nice easterly kicks in on Friday for a quick send up to Russell.

The early forecast is not looking that promising, with a light northerly predicted, and it might remind Cook more of sailing through the Doldrums than the Southern Ocean.

This week's Coastal Classic marks the first major outing for the Volvo 65 Cook hopes to race in the next Ocean Race starting in 2022. It's one she knows well, given it was formerly Turn the Tide on Plastic, but it's been given a new paint job and there are a few other changes.

"Stepping on board for the first time brought back a few memories and in the small amount of sailing we have done you remembered how wet you can get on these boats," Cook told Yachting New Zealand's podcast, Broad Reach Radio.

"It has been fantastic. It just feels like there are a few people missing because I spent nine months sailing around the world with a completely different crew."

Cook has enlisted some of this country's most experienced ocean sailors like Daryl Wislang, Rob Salthouse, Justin Ferris and Ryan Houston to help in the initial stages of the campaign and Wislang and Houston will be on board for the Coastal Classic. Cook plans to have an all-Kiwi crew for the Ocean Race and will give some thought to the selection process in coming weeks.

This week's Coastal Classic will be Cook's sixth race from Auckland to Russell. Her first was on Satellite Spy when she was still in the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron's youth training programme and it fuelled her interest in sailing around the world. 

Now she's done that, she's been working with Tony Rae to put together a New Zealand team in the Ocean Race but the campaign has already hit a few challenges.

"We were due to launch the boat the day New Zealand went into lockdown and we were having some positive conversations with potential sponsors but it's hard for anyone trying to get sponsorship in this current climate," she said. "The one-year delay is probably a good thing because we can do a lot more sailing in New Zealand and it gives us more time to find sponsors. If we were trying to make the start line next year, I would be quite worried."

Covid-19 has meant the Mod 70 trimaran Beau Geste, which took line honours in record time last year, will be missing but there will still be a bumper fleet of 175 boats across eight divisions and the cruising rally. 

Without Beau Geste and Frank Racing (formerly Team Vodafone Sailing), which claimed line honours eight times between 2010 and 2018, there isn't a standout favourite for line honours. New Zealand Ocean Racing could come into the equation given the right conditions, but it's not really about that for Cook. 

"It's such a relief to to finally have the boat in the water," she said. "It has been awesome being able to boost around the Hauraki Gulf... but what better way than to start with the Coastal Classic. It is New Zealand's great race.

"Hopefully we get a blasting easterly. It would be awesome to be able to push the boat and get up there as quickly as we can."

  • Photo: Georgia Schofield.