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In-Port tactics

 

 

If a group of yacht racing skippers were to collaborate on the design of a challenging yacht racing venue, it would probably end up looking similar to the Waitemata Harbour.

 

Surrounded by beautiful real estate and protected from the sea swell, the Harbour challenges yachties with shifty winds and strong currents. Like a well-designed golf course, it is duly littered with hazards such as rocks and shoals, a bridge and a variety of navigational marks. A plethora of craft navigating on the harbour ranging from ferries and fishing boats to cruise ships and car carriers help add to the sailor’s exhilaration.

 

With winds forecast from the East-northeast at 15 to 20 knots on Saturday, the boats should be able to stretch their legs a bit and sail at or faster than wind speed. At this sort of pace, they will quickly chew up the race track which will extend from a west of the Harbour Bridge out into the Rangitoto Channel.

 

Spectators both on and off the water have a variety of options for up-close viewing (click here for the Harbourmaster's instructions) but those in high places like North Head or the Sky Tower will be able to view the entire race.

 

With a 2.9 metre high tide predicted to peak just before 4 pm, the tidal flow into the Harbour during the race will be strong. Depending upon the boat’s heading, this can potentially add or subtract more than a knot of ground speed to the boat’s progress over the water. Using or avoiding the tide can make or break one’s race.

 

With the strongest current flowing in the middle of the Harbour, tacticians will want to work the edges to minimise tidal effect when heading east against the current, and keep more towards the middle and ride with the current when they turn back and head west up the Harbour.

 

This may be easier said than done depending on how many spectator boats take to the water on a fine Saturday afternoon and line the edges of the race track.

 

A north easterly wind means there are likely to be some wind shadows to the southwest of Stanley Point, Mt. Victoria and North Head. Tacticians may favour the south side of the Harbour in search of more pressure and undisturbed wind in an effort to get every bit of advantage against the opposition.

 

The Volvo Open 70 yachts are designed to sail well on long ocean legs. Sailing this sort of yacht on a harbour course “around the cans” is a bit like driving an inter-city bus on a go-cart track. Manoeuvrability will be a consideration and tacticians will be looking to get the most out of each tack and gybe.

 

With the teams looking to put points on the leader board and Auckland looking forward to some spirited sailing, the In-Port Race promises to be a real spectacle on the Waitemata.

 

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