NZ’s best big boat regatta better than ever for its 100 entrants

A new venue this year has made New Zealand’s best big boat regatta even better, according to participants at the 21st Bay of Islands Sailing Week regatta this week in Opua. Despite entry numbers dwindling in the wake of Covid, the list of entrants for the annual sailing event tipped over the milestone 100 mark on Tuesday, with several late entries received before Registration for the event concluded.

The 100th entry was Explore Group head William Goodfellow’s classic yacht Teal. Goodfellow – a major sponsor of the regatta – sailed Teal two handed with his wife Dinna as crew, placing 11th on General Handicap and 5th on PHRF in the Island Racing D division.

This year the regatta’s on-shore base relocated to the grassed area at the southern end of the Bay of Islands Marina. The larger venue with views of the water and marina came alive with music and local food vendors each evening during regatta week, and organisers say they have been inundated with good feedback about the new location.

The weather also helped make this year’s regatta a hugely enjoyable event for sailors. Fresh breezes and fine weather on Wednesday and Thursday made for perfect sailing conditions, while a day of lighter breezes on Friday gave sailors a technically challenging finale to the event. It was a far cry from the conditions competitors endured at last year’s regatta, which was called off a day early due to high winds.

This year the regatta also introduced two new trophies to celebrate and promote female sailors at the event. The SheSails NZ Top Female Helm trophies for Open Racing and Island Racing were presented by Raynor Haagh, national sport development director at Yachting New Zealand, which sponsored the awards. The Open Racing trophy was taken out by former world match racer Claudia Pierce and her all-female crew on Spider Pig. In the Island Racing divisions, it was Melissa Logan on Aeolian who claimed the inaugural trophy for her division. Organisers say they hope the new trophies will encourage more female sailors to take on the role of helmsperson at the regatta in the future.

Bay of Islands Sailing Week takes place each year at the end of January, on the week preceding the Auckland Anniversary long weekend. This year’s regatta was made possible thanks to the generous support of Northland Inc, North Sails, Explore and Otehei Bay, Mount Gay Rum, Bay of Islands Marina, Gurit, Pub Charity and Grassroots Trust.

Organisers also thanked the dozens of volunteers who dedicated their time both on and off the water, and the many businesses that offered support by providing products and services free of charge.

The next Bay of Islands Sailing Week is scheduled to take place in the week starting 20 January 2025, and organisers are keen to expand the event to a full week next year.

Results from across the divisions:

Bay of Islands Marina B Division was closely contested by its six entrants, but it was Matt Cole’s Zephyrus that took out wins on PHRF and general handicap, even though Howard Spencer’s Menace was fastest on line.

Always hotly contested by the local boats, Gurit E division general handicap and PHRF were taken out by David Krebs’ Black Magic, although the fleet was kept on their toes by Claudia Pierce and her all-female team on Spider Pig, who took line honours in all but one race.

In the Explore Sport Boats division, Jake Pye’s Animal Biscuits foiled home to a line honours win and took out general handicap in the 13 boat fleet. Five of the 13 also competed for the Magic 25 one design class trophy, with Brent Gribble’s Magic Dragon victorious at the end of the week.

The Mount Gay Young 88 division saw intense class competition between the eight entries, with America’s Cup style match racing tactics leading Harry Thurston’s Danger Zone to the line honours win, while Roger Sims’ Heartlight came out on top on handicap.

The North Sails Island Racing Divisions once again proved to be overwhelmingly popular with competitors. A total of 67 boats opted for these divisions, sailing a single longer race around the islands each day. There were big fleets on the start line of all five of these divisions, making for stiff competition despite being considered the event’s more laid back divisions.

In North Sails Island Racing A division, waterline length predictably triumphed over the line, with Mayhem taking out line honours in all three races. It was a win for the locals on handicap though, with Russell’s Chris Hornell taking out the win on general handicap on board his new boat Blue Dude. Rob Bassett’s Wired claimed top position on PHRF.

Sham Pain, skippered by Greer Houston and John Kensington, won Island Racing B on general handicap and PHRF, despite Tongue Twister’s solid performance on line. In Island Racing C, Carpe Diem claimed both line honours and general handicap wins, but just lost out to L’Avanti on PHRF.

Sinisa Grujicic on Hotdogger, one of the event’s ten female helmspeople, was fastest over the line in Island Racing D, but just lost out on general handicap to Tony Poolman’s Elevation, which also claimed the PHRF win.

The non-spinnaker division had nine entries, with another of the event’s female helmspeople, Melissa Logan on Aeolian, claiming general handicap and PHRF wins, while Zindabar took line honours.

Full results for the 21st Bay of Islands Sailing Week can be found here.