Back to top anchor
Close main menu
Open main menu Close main menu

Rookie crew takes on 20th edition of Bay of Islands Sailing Week

Issue date

Competitive keelboat racing can be a tough world to break into and, as the 20th edition of Bay of Islands Sailing Week kicks off today, it's promising to see novice crews making their debut alongside the old-timers. 

Over 100 boats have entered to compete in the milestone event - among them an all-female and relatively new-to-sailing crew on Rum Jungle, a modified Elliott 6.5 trailer sailor. 

Offering Rum Jungle as a boat for sailors to build their experience and take to bigger regattas is Whangārei Cruising Club's answer to the common predicament new sailors face - trying to get a foot in the door. 

Rum Jungle

Above: Rum Jungle sailed into 3rd place in E division at the last regatta in 2021 under her previous owner. © Lissa Photography

Rum Jungle was purchased by WCC in 2021 to encourage more people into yacht racing, especially targeted for women and youth sailors.

Scott Gavin, who serves on the executive committee at WCC, says the idea came about following a surge of interest from women in trailer yacht sailing at the club, at a time when they were running out of available crew positions among the existing race fleet.

“We had a lot of new sailors coming through, most of them were women, and our trailer yacht convener said - how are we going to fit everyone in? We don’t want to say no to anybody.”

With backing from its sponsors, the club bought its own boat to help with the increased demand.

It’s a racy design with the potential to be at the front of the fleet, but also easily managed by a less experience or younger crew.

Gavin says it's the perfect tool to transition sailors out of dinghies and into keelboats and offers giving a fun and safe way to develop their sailing skills.

Emily Walker is a regular crew on Rum Jungle for club racing at WCC and is skippering the team at the 20th Bay of Islands Sailing Week.

She's excited about the prospect of taking part in one of the New Zealand's premier sailing events.

“It’s good because it's a challenge. You're going to a different place where you’ve not sailed much before, but there’s so many people up there and so much support that I think that makes it fine, and you know it’s going to be a learning experience.”

Rum Jungle has definite potential for a podium finish in the Island Racing Division this year.

In previous editions the boat has placed third in E division, and has claimed the top prize in Island Racing C.  

“We’ve probably come up a little bit, at the beginning we were way at the bottom of the fleet”, says Emily, “but for me personally it’s more just about going out and having fun and getting round, and that’s awesome.”


A special VIP evening will be held at this year's event to mark the 20th edition and recognise those who have been instrumental in the event’s success over the years. Among the VIPs invited are event co-founders Tony and Nina Kiff, who were recently awarded a Service Award at the Yachting New Zealand Excellence Awards, in recognition of their tireless efforts on behalf of the event. 

The guest list also includes Bay of Islands sailors Cees Romeyn and Nev Cambell, who are the only people to have taken part in every regatta in the event’s history, on the same boats they first entered in the inaugural event in 2003.

Bay of Islands Sailing Week: