20th Bay of Islands Sailing Week could be biggest yet

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NZ’s best-loved keelboat regatta – Bay of Islands Sailing Week – is setting a course for a massive comeback in 2023, following last year’s cancellation of the regatta due to Covid, funding and other organisational issues.

The event now plans to mark its 20th anniversary in 2023, and organisers say they have already had an unprecedented amount of early interest.

Prior to entries opening, the regatta’s organising committee was inundated with requests from sailors keen to secure their spot at the hugely popular three-day regatta.

“We were getting so many calls and emails from people asking how they could enter”, says regatta Publicity Officer Helen Horrocks. “People were obviously really disappointed the event didn’t go ahead last time, so I think everyone’s even more amped about coming to Bay Week this year.”

Since entries officially opened on 14 September, a flood of sign-ups have already been received. The huge early interest from sailors is a positive sign that this could be the event’s biggest year yet in terms of entry numbers, which peaked pre-Covid at 139 boats.

Despite the loss of its headline sponsor this year, the event has recently received a significant funding boost from the Far North District Council’s event fund. Together with renewed support from the regatta’s existing family of sponsors, including major sponsors NZL Sailing Foundation, North Sails and Explore, the funding puts the event back in a far more viable position financially.

“Last year was incredibly hard for many of our sponsors” says Regatta Chairperson Ian Clouston, “so we’re very grateful that so many of them have come back on board to support us this year.”

Ian says it’s likely the event will be well supported with entry fees too, with the expectation of high participant numbers, so the future of the regatta looks far brighter than it did last year.

“Of course costs are increasing, so that makes things harder,” says Ian, “but people really love this event and they want it to continue, so we’re confident that’s going to be the case.”

The event is almost entirely volunteer-run, with over 60 people dedicating their time to run the regatta each year. Funding for the event is generously provided by the Far North District Council, NZL Sailing Foundation, North Sails, Explore, Mount Gay Rum, Gurit, Bay of Islands Marina, Bluefix Boatworks and Luxury Real Estste, along with many other local businesses.

Bay of Islands Sailing Week takes place from 24 to 27 January 2023, based at the Opua Cruising Club, with racing taking place throughout the spectacular Bay of Islands. Entries are welcomed from keelboats, trailer yachts, multihulls and sport boats. Class associations are encouraged to contact organisers about the possibility of running class racing at the event.