Racing called off as wild weather batters Bay of Islands

For the first time in the Bay of Islands Sailing Week regatta’s 20 year history, racing has been called off this morning as gale force winds, heavy rain and rough seas batter the Bay of Islands. The regatta’s race committee made the decision to abandon the final day’s racing in light of the weather, which has also caused the cancellation of ferries between Paihia and Russell this morning.

Regatta Chairman Ian Clouston said: “It’s been a testing event, for the boats taking part and race management. But to only call off one event in 20 years, we’ve been very lucky.”

Racing got underway on Wednesday with 103 boats taking part in the 20th anniversary edition of the event, with all scheduled races completed on NZL Sailing Foundation Race Day One despite testing conditions on the water. Sailors had to contend with up to 2.5m waves and winds of up to 25 knots to complete their courses. But despite many describing the day as “hard work”, others were glad of the opportunity to sail in conditions they might not otherwise have braved.

“They were working their butts off out there and it was very challenging, but quite a few sailors have said to me it was good for them to get that experience. It was a great learning experience,” Ian said.

Conditions were similar on Thursday for Explore Race Day Two, and race management opted to bring racing in closer to calmer waters further inside the Bay of Islands, to avoid the worst of the rough seas. They also altered courses so all divisions sailed a single bay race, and no windward-leeward races were sailed.

Around half the boats entered would normally sail three races each day – two windward-leewards and a bay race – so the cancellation of North Sails Race Day Three means the Open Racing divisions completed just four races out of a scheduled nine. The Island Racing divisions, which sail a single, longer bay race each day, completed two races out of a scheduled three.

The change has been welcomed by some, but met with disappointment from others who had hoped for the chance to claw back the lead from their rivals. But most were happy not to have to sail today in heavy wind and rain, and took the opportunity to enjoy a well earned sleep-in after last night’s Beach Party at Otehei Bay.

Competitors heaped praise on the event’s organisers and volunteers for putting on a great regatta despite the challenging conditions, with many promising to return again next year whatever the weather.

The 20th Bay of Islands Sailing Week was made possible thanks to the generous support of Northland Inc, Far North District Council, North Sails, NZL Sailing Foundation, Explore, Mount Gay Rum, Bay of Islands Marina, Gurit, Bluefix Boatworks, Luxury Real Estate, KZ Leisurefurl, Vining Marine and Burnsco. 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 from 23 to 26 January 2024.

Results from across the divisions:

In Northland Inc A Division, Harry Dodson and Tony Bosnyak sailed Mayhem to a convincing win with line honours in all four races, and first place on both PHRF and general handicap.

There was intense competition among the 40 footers in North Sails B Division. Newcomer Sassinate skippered by Mikayla Plaw put the fleet through its paces to claim line honours with two first and two second on line placings. But it was Steve Mair’s Clockwork which took out a close win on PHRF, with Zephyrus placing first on general handicap.

In FNDC C Division, Sham Pain was fastest on line, but L’Avanti, skippered by Richard Power from Kerikeri Cruising Club claimed the handicap wins.

A fiercely competitive 12 boats, some as small as 18ft and none greater than 25ft in length, competed in Explore E Division in incredibly tough conditions. Simon Edgar’s Fantail II put in a stellar performance to claim line, PHRF and general handicap wins for the Royal Akarana Yacht Club, disappointing locals which traditionally make up the majority of this division.

A similar sized fleet in the NZL Sailing Foundation Sport Boats Division also deserve recognition for battling the conditions to race. Ten boats started on day one, but two retired from further racing due to damage, including local favourites Angry Dragon, leaving the remaining fleet of eight to contend for the podium. Regular competitor Phil Bishop on Helter Skelter was fastest on line, but it was Andrew Archibald’s Allure’s Mate, skippered by 15 year old Storm Douwes, that claimed first on handicap.

In the KZ Leisurefurl Island Racing A Division, Brian Peterson’s V5 sailed into first place across the board with wins on line, PHRF and general handicap.

Regatta co-founder Ray Haslar will be pleased his new boat The Muppet Show was fastest on line in the Bay of Islands Marina Island Racing B Division. But he was pipped to a win on handicap by Kevin Peet’s Symmetry, which claimed both PHRF and general handicap wins.

Results were a mixed bag in Vining Marine Island Racing C Division, with Martin Wylie’s NZ Spars & Rigging claiming line honours, while a trio of Young 88s claimed all three podium positions on general handicap. Drew Belk’s Slipstream III was first, followed by Heartlight and Sailormoon, while of the four boats sailing under PHRF handicap, War Machine claimed the win by a narrow margin.

The five Young 88s taking part simultaneously competed in the Mount Gay Rum Young 88 Division, with line honours being the most coveted trophy for this competitive one-design fleet, which Jacko Van Deventer on Sailormoon takes home.

Floyd skippered by Jeremy Noakes took line honours in the Burnsco Island Racing D Division, while Terry Dunn’s Marara was hot on his heels to claim PHRF and general handicap wins.

In the Gurit Island Racing Non Spinnaker Division, Gary Fell’s Sea Harmony claimed the line wins in both races which was enough to secure him wins on both PHRF and general handicap too.

In the multihull divisions, Meric Davies’ Onco Fonco claimed wins on line and handicap in the Luxury Real Estate M Division. While in the Bluefix Island Racing M Division, Bill Kidman’s Buzz came out on top.

Full results for the 20th Bay of Islands Sailing Week can be found here: