The CRC Bay of Islands Sailing Week will welcome its biggest ever fleet next week in the 18th instalment of New Zealand's biggest multi-day keelboat regatta.
As many as 137 entries are confirmed for the event which starts on January 22, eclipsing the 116 boats which took part last year, and it's 100 more than they had for the first event in 2003.
The regatta welcomes boats of all shapes and sizes, from sport boats to superyachts, and entries will still be accepted right up to registration on Tuesday, January 21 (4pm-6pm). More information and online entry form can be found at www.bayofislandssailingweek.org.nz.
Regatta chairwoman Manuela Gmuer-Hornell says she is “thrilled, and a bit scared” to be welcoming their biggest ever fleet in 2020.
“It’s just awesome to see how much support there is for this regatta” said Gmuer-Hornell, who added that the event is run almost entirely by volunteers and it’s down to their continued efforts that the event keeps growing in popularity every year.
One of the biggest jumps in entry numbers is in the Mount Gay Rum Young 88 Division, which currently has 10 entries, up from just three in 2019.
Among them is former America’s Cup tactician, Olympian and round-the-world sailor Gavin Brady, sailing with his daughter Carrington Brady, aboard their Young 88 Slipstream.
Sixteen-year-old Carrington recently navigated her way to fame aboard Beau Geste, the 70ft trimaran helmed by her father, which broke the race record for the Coastal Classic yacht race in October last year.
Brady says although his daughter is a capable skipper in her own right, and has already sailed Slipstream up to the Bay of Islands to cruise the area with friends over the holidays, the pair will co-skipper at CRC Bay of Islands Sailing Week. But he fully expects to be made redundant in the near future.
“We share the role and mix it up a bit,” he said. “Some races she drives, some I drive and we swap around, with the end goal that eventually I’ll probably be kicked off the boat and it’ll be her show.”
Brady said the surge in entry numbers from the Young 88 fleet is down to the way the class is managed by class president Mike Leyland.
According to Brady, communication is key, and Leyland is “all over it”. He coordinates the fleet of Young 88s, which sailed from Auckland to the Bay of Islands to cruise and compete in the regatta, and will sail back together too. He even organised a truck to transport their racing gear to the Bay of Islands for them.
“He makes it so easy," Brady said. "If every class has a class manager like Mike, life would be good. I wish he was running some of the circuits that we do overseas."
Also in the Young 88 fleet are a group of accomplished young sailors from Lyttleton, led by 18-year-old Isaac Armstrong. He is confident his team has what it takes to win, despite going up against “rock stars” like Brady.
“We’ve got a good fleet, it’ll be a tough ask,” says Armstrong, “but I reckon we can surprise a few people.”
- Pic: As many as 10 Young 88s will race at the CRC Bay of Islands Sailing Week, including Mike Leyland's War Machine. Photo: Lissa Photography.