Bay of Islands Sailing Week is the ultimate girls’ week for Claudia Pierce and her crew

You can keep the wine tours and the pedicures – the ultimate girls’ week for the all-female crew of Spider Pig is a week of sailing, foiling and paddleboarding at Bay of Islands Sailing Week.

The trio – skipper Claudia Pierce together with crew Annalise Cleary and Ella Sagnol – may never have sailed the Laser SB20 Spider Pig before. But that’s no big deal to skipper Claudia Pierce, who borrowed the boat from fellow Tauranga sailor Kevin Mann for the regatta.

“I’m heading over to Kevin’s this weekend to pick it up and work out how to rig it up,” she says with a relaxed and genuine confidence. “But I’ve sailed Elliott 5.9s and lots of other boats of a similar size, so I’m sure we’ll work it out.”

With Claudia’s experience and reputation, there’s no doubt Spider Pig will be in good hands. A graduate of the RNZYS Youth Training Programme, Claudia spent two years match racing on the world circuit with an all-female crew, climbing to the very respectable rank of 9th in the world. They may well have climbed higher, but she says the challenges of sponsorship and getting commitment from team members with family and work ties in New Zealand eventually got too much.

Returning to New Zealand, she bought the Young 11 Kaimai Flyer, which she lived aboard and raced extensively, chalking up wins at the Waikawa New Year Regatta and the Port Nicholson Regatta, along with many others on her own and other boats. With Kaimai now sold, Claudia asked Kevin if she could borrow his boat for Bay of Islands Sailing Week, and as someone similarly dedicated to helping more women access the sport, he happily agreed.

But while she is undoubtedly passionate about promoting women in sailing, when it comes to winning, Claudia says she’d rather beat everyone than just the girls.

“I grew up at Tauranga Yacht Club with Pete Burling and the Meeches and the Saunders, so it’s always been that I didn’t just want to beat the girls, I wanted to beat the boys as well. I’d rather go out and beat whoever is out there racing,” she says.

As such, she admits the new Top Female Helm trophies at Bay of Islands Sailing Week don’t really motivate her, but she can see why they are a good thing to promote the women’s side of the sport.

Now that her competitive spirit isn’t the “roaring fire” that it used to be though, Claudia says sailing is more about getting out and having a great time with great friends.

“That’s the plan for Bay of Islands Sailing Week,” she says. “I just want to have a good week away with the girls. We’re bringing up the wing foil gear and the paddleboards, and when we’re not sailing we’ll be doing other activities. The house we’ve rented has got a spa pool as well so it’s definitely going to be a great girls’ week.”

Spider Pig will be sailing at Bay of Islands Sailing Week amongst a fleet that currently numbers 89, with further late entries expected to boost that number before racing starts on Wednesday 24 January. Racing continues throughout Thursday and Friday, with Prizegiving held on Friday 26 January after racing concludes.