New Zealand fleet ready to go for the Evolution Sails Sail Noumea Race

Beau Geste - Evolution Sails Sail Noumea
Suellen Hurling

There is less than a week before the Auckland fleet start Sail Noumea 2012 off the Royal Akarana Yacht Club, Okahu Bay, at 1400 hours on Saturday June 2, 2012.

The crews of the 17 ocean racing yachts were farewelled in a French themed party last Friday night hosted by the voice of yachting Peter Montgomery and attended by dignitaries from Orakei Local Board, Ngati Whatua O Orakei, Tourism New Caledonia, and race name sponsors Evolution Sails. Commodore Matthew Woodley welcomed the crews, their friends and families and wished all boats a safe and fast passage to Noumea.

Nick Hawke from Ngati Whatua O Orakei performed a traditional Maori blessing of the crews and explained the special relationship his tribe have with the sea, Okahu Bay, and their relationship with Royal Akarana Yacht Club.

Starlight Express - Evolution Sails Sail Noumea
Suellen Hurling
Peter Montgomery commented on the importance of Royal Akarana Yacht Club as the home of New Zealand blue water sailing. He said that in starting the race all the crews have entered a special group of ocean sailors to race to the tropical South Pacific from the ocean racing club.

The current weather outlook of 20 to 25 knot southerly winds for next Saturday’s start is set to propel the yachts north very quickly.

Orma60 trimaran Team Vodafone Sailing are expected to lead the fleet away from Auckland. Scuttlebutt around Royal Akarana Yacht Club at the crew farewell party was that the big tri could complete the race in under two days!

28 Beau GesteBut they won’t have the limelight to themselves. Beau Geste, China's most successful sailing team, returns to New Zealand for the 2012 Auckland to Noumea race. Launched in New Zealand in 2009, Karl Kwok's 80 foot maxi has been campaigned in the Northern Hemisphere sailing over 50,000 miles. In April Beau Geste won line honours in the LA to Tahiti race and continued down to Auckland to compete in the Auckland to Noumea Race. Beau Geste crewman Rodney Keenan said '…if the current forecast holds they could complete the race in just over two days.'

While Vodafone and Beau Geste eye multihull and keelboat line honours the other yachts in the fleet all expect a blast north, and all are hot contenders for handicap honours.

Bullrush - Evolution Sails Sail Noumea
Suellen Hurling
Whitbread winner Steinlager2 is a sentimental favourite of many and will relish the strong downwind conditions. TP52 Kia Kaha will be very fast in the forecast breeze and will be pushed hard by ocean race veteran M1 and the only other TP52 in the fleet V5.

Sydney Hobart and Kenwood Cup winner Starlight Express expects a quick race with skipper Mike Wilson saying 'this year’s race is likely to produce race and individual yacht race record times which could stand for many years to come.'

And after losing their mast just five miles off North Cape in the last Noumea Ocean Race Bullrush has a point to prove. The 40 footer is the smallest yacht in the fleet but reveals in strong downwind conditions. Owner and skipper Anthony Robinson has his eye on a handicap win and says '…we’ll have the hammer down the whole way to Noumea.'

A Navy vessel will be anchored just off Orakei Wharf to start the race. Excellent vantage points for spectators to watch all the start action include Tamaki Drive near Kelly Tarlton’s, Bastion Point, and North Head.

Yachts can be followed on the live Evolution Sails Yellow Brick tracker which can be found by following the link from www.sailnoumea.com (the NZ link will be available in the coming days). The Sail Noumea Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sailnoumea will be updated with race information. Both sites are a great way for spectators, sailors’ family and friends to stay in touch with all the race action.

Peter Montgomery & Mike Wilson (Starlight Express) - Evolution Sails Sail Noumea
Suellen Hurling