Uncertainty over Covid restrictions, among other organisational issues, has forced the cancellation of one of NZ’s biggest and best-loved sailing events, CRC Bay of Islands Sailing Week. The event, which would have been celebrating its 20th anniversary in January 2022, will now postpone celebrations until the following year’s regatta.
Organisers say the decision was not taken lightly, with the committee deliberating for weeks over whether the volunteer-run event could go ahead in one way or another.
“We are all incredibly sad to have to do this,” said Committee Chair Nina Kiff, “but we felt it was the only option given the range of issues we have faced this year.”
The committee considered several options to make the event happen, including running a scaled-down, on-water only event, without the shorebased entertainment side of the regatta. But a host of difficulties have conspired to scupper the event, including knock-on effects from Covid, and the added complexities of a new marine mammal sanctuary set to come into force in the Bay of Islands on 15 December.
Nina Kiff says the new Covid protection framework and requirements around vaccine passports have been difficult for the organising committee to navigate, but that’s just one of the reasons for the cancellation.
“There is a lot of uncertainty around how the traffic light system will affect events like ours, and what our responsibilities as organisers will be when it comes to protecting people from Covid”, said Nina. “It’s our duty to put on a safe event, and we just don’t feel confident that we can do that with certainty at the moment.”
The event has also lost funding this year, with several sponsors as well as community grant organisations being hit financially by recent lockdowns. On top of that, there could be a shortage of marina berths for regatta participants as overseas cruisers have had to cancel their plans and leave their boats in Opua while they fly home to other countries. And there’s worry among some of the regatta’s volunteers about being part of such a big event, in a region where vaccination rates continue to be among the lowest in the country.
“We have done our best to work through all of these issues”, says Nina, “and we were still hopeful we’d be able to put on a great regatta, but unfortunately there is just too much against us this year.”
“We want to extend our heartfelt apologies to all our competitors, sponsors and supporters, and thank you all for your continued support. We look forward to seeing you all in 2023 for our belated 20th birthday.”
Competitors who have already paid entry fees will be issued refunds by 17 December.