Oki 24 Hour Race a mental and physical test

It's regarded as one of the toughest races on the sailing calendar, meaning it's both a mental and physical challenge.

Tom Saunders, above, and Andrew McKenzie won last year's race. 

It's also one that attracts a high calibre of sailor, evidenced by the names on the honours board, like Dean Barker, Peter Lester, Sam Meech, Tom Slingsby, Chris Dickson, Blair Tuke and Tom Saunders.

Entries are open for this year's Oki 24 Hour Race at Lake Pupuke on March 3-4. A six-hour Optimist race for children aged 7-12 also runs just prior to the main event and all funds raised go towards training children of all ages in the community who want to get into sailing.

Tom Saunders last year became the first person to win four 24-hour races, teaming up with Andrew McKenzie in the 50th running of the demanding event to navigate the circuit 84 times. He had previously won two titles with his brother Jason as well as another with George Lane.

Last year's event, run by the Murrays Bay Sailing Club, was hit by torrential rain and gusty winds on the final morning, which tested the sailors both mentally and physically. Wellington's Olivia Christie was one of four sailors in the solo competition and accumulated 81 laps, which saw her finish as the first woman and eighth overall.

Sailors race in crews of two per boat, with each team member sailing for a maximum of three hours before being required to rest. The winning team is the one that completes the most number of laps within the 24-hour period and includes sailors from 12 years up to 70 years of age

The event is spilt into five categories: open class, youth (under 18 years), women’s and masters (over 35), and endurance athletes. 

This year the Volvo Ocean Race is in town and organisers are hopeful that teams will join the legends race on Saturday from 6pm-8pm in a bid to outwit and outmanoeuvre each other.

“Every year leading up to the OKI 24-hour there is a real buzz around the sailing community. Given the long history and physical challenge, it is definitely a highlight on the yachting calendar.” Murrays Bay Sailing Club commodore Jane Pilkington said.

Printer company, OKI, has been a sponsor of the 24-hour race for the past 20 years.

Racing runs from Saturday, March 3 to Sunday, March 4.

6-hr Race: Sat 7am–1pm
24-hour Race: Sat 2pm–Sun 2pm
Celebrity Match Race: Sat 6pm–8pm

For more information on the Oki 24 Hour Race, see here.