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First Kiwi home

 

 

Kiwi sailors have a great tradition in the international grand prix blue water racing. Of the 66 crew on the six boats racing into Auckland this weekend, 20 are sailing to their homeland.

 

The painful irony is that the current overall race leader Telefonica is the only boat in the without a Kiwi on board.

 

So who will be the first New Zealander to cross the finish line? At the moment Groupama, with just one Kiwi crew member (Brad Marsh of Auckland), holds a commanding lead over the rest of the fleet on Leg 4 of the Race.

 

But, as any sailor will remind you, a yacht race ain’t over until it’s over.

 

The fleet of Volvo Open 70’s are currently spread out between 400 and 600 nautical miles from the finish line just off the Viaduct Basin in Auckland. As the Volvo fleet approach the top of New Zealand’s North Island, they are currently sailing into the teeth of a fresh easterly headwind. Once they pass Cape Reinga, the wind is forecast to veer to the southeast-once again bang on the nose. The cool, dense air coming off the southern ocean packs more punch per knot of speed than the moisture laden trade wind air up in the tropics. Seas become shorter and steeper as they close in on land.

 

All this means that gear failure could become a factor after a long and punishing ocean passage

 

With seven Kiwis on board, New Zealand entry Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand are actually tied with Sanya for most Kiwi crew. Puma have three and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has two New Zealanders.

 

So why is it that so many Kiwis rise to this level of professional yacht racing? With the ocean not more than a few hour’s drive from anywhere in the country, boating is one of the most popular recreational activities in the country. New Zealand’s sailing history dates back to the migration of the Polynesians across the Pacific and the subsequent colonization by Europeans, who arrived on tall sailing ships from the west. Until the early-20th century, much of New Zealand’s commerce moved by boats on the rivers and oceans around the country.

 

Generations of New Zealanders have grown up sailing on Optimist and P-Class dinghies, later graduating to larger keel boats. Inspired by the exploits of New Zealand heroes such as Sir Peter Blake, many have continued yachting as a hobby, lifestyle or career.

 

The keenly competitive yacht racing scene in New Zealand has honed the skills of our top yachties, causing them to be sought after as crew on yachts all over the world. As they say, it’s in the blood.

 

Regardless of the outcome of the Volvo Ocean Race, there will be at least a few New Zealanders on the podium.

 

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