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Round NZ Two-Handed Race

Round NZ race a battle of boat, body and brain

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Sall Garrett has some simple advice for anyone contemplating two-handed offshore racing - get a psychologist.

"Honestly, it's is a brain game, so get someone to train your brain," she said.

Garrett is speaking from experience, having competed in the last Round New Zealand Two-Handed Yacht Race in 2012 and she's also done two Round North Island Two-Handed Races.

The 42-year-old will team up with Rob Croft for this year's third instalment of the Round New Zealand race and is the only female competitor.

The seven boats will leave from Devonport on Saturday morning and are expected to return to Auckland in mid-March after having made stops at Mangonui in Northland, Stewart Island and Napier.

All of the boats are of similar size, which should make for a competitive race, and they're likely to face some challenging conditions along the way. Puysegur Point on the south-west coast of the South Island, for instance, has a gale warning 300 days of the year.

That's part of the reason why Garrett recommends some psychological help and it also goes some way to explaining her team's motto: "It doesn't get easier, you just get faster."

The first Round New Zealand Two-Handed Race was staged in 1990.

Short-handed sailing has experienced a bit of a renaissance in recent times as sailors look for challenging offshore events and in 2011 a record 36 entries competed in the Round North Island Two-Handed Race. This encouraged SSANZ to reintroduce the Round New Zealand Two-Handed Race the following year and last year 170 competitors took part in the SSANZ Safety at Sea Triple Series.

Garrett has plenty of keelboat and dinghy experience, having spent two years in the Royal New Zealand's youth scheme, another two years on the World Match Racing Tour and she was 25th overall and first female helm at the last Flying 15 world championships.

She's sailed a lot with Croft - they've done nine Coastal Classics together - so the pair will know each other well. They're sailing the Farr 38 Expedition Coppelia.

Along with the beautiful sunrises and sunsets, challenging conditions and competition, Garrett is also looking forward to something else: "four weeks of freedom from work."

The first leg to Mangonui is expected to take a little over 24 hours, the second leg to Stewart Island between five and 10 days, the third to Napier between four and six days and the final sprint back to Auckland between two and five days.

You can follow the seven boats competing in the 2019 Round New Zealand Two-Handed Race on the tracker.