Promoters announce Auckland to Bluff Race for February 2014

Mayor of Invercargill, Tim Shadbolt, speaking at the launch of the A2B Race

A major new yacht race, was announced in Auckland on Tuesday. It will set sail from Auckland on February 6, 2014, Waitangi Day 2014, and will head around Cape Reinga, down the West Coast and finish in Bluff.

It will be known as the A2B — Auckland to Bluff Ocean Race and will be the longest ocean race ever to start and finish in New Zealand, taking place over an 1100 nautical mile course - almost twice the length of a Sydney Hobart race, and longer than the final leg of the last Volvo Ocean Race.

Promoters say the A2B — Auckland to Bluff Ocean Race has been created as a major annual event which aims to reinforce New Zealand’s international status as a hub of sailing excellence and marine technology, highlight our maritime heritage and pristine environment, and be a vibrant spectator friendly event that kiwis can be part of.

Course for the Auckland to Bluff race, showing the direct and rough weather alternative course through Cook Strait
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The race has been eighteen months in the making, with race promoter Murray Francis, a leading New Zealand film producer, working tirelessly on this exciting new event for New Zealand sailing.

In developing theA2B Ocean Race, Francis said 'we wanted to create an event which showcases New Zealand’s sailing abilities, and marine industry. An Auckland to Bluff ocean race will not only promote sailing, but will showcase our spectacular scenery to an international audience.

'It’s an initiative on our National Day to make Kiwis proud of our country, our seafaring traditions and our ability to compete internationally in the sport of sailing. Modern technology means the whole country will be able to follow the race and its inevitable dramas and excitement.'

The A2B Ocean Race will be run by an executive management team comprising of Murray Francis, Dave Mee and Craig Seuseu (SMC Events). This team will report to a Board of Directors chaired by Peter Ross. The board will comprise of Francis, Mee, the Chief Executive of Yachting NZ, and two further independent directors who are currently being sought.

The initial idea for the event started in Southland, with Francis then getting involved. Early support was obtained from interested parties in Southland and Sport New Zealand, and more recently Major Events and the NZ Government have come on board. Yachting New Zealand have given strong support as they see it as an event which will help develop New Zealand yachtsmen and women.

$440,000 had been allocated to the event by the Government and similar parties, making it second only to the investment in the America's Cup Challenge and three times the amount invested, for instance, in the three Olympic class World Sailing Championships which attracted over 300 entrants from more than 40 countries in 2008.

In his statement The Minister for Economic Development, Steve Joyce, commented: 'The A2B, which is to be held in February 2014, is an innovative new yacht race from Auckland to the Bluff. It aims to become New Zealand’s premiere national boat race - attracting international participants, including super yachts and maxi yachts, and festivals planned at both the start and finish lines.'

'New Zealand’s marine industry has $1 .7 billion in annual turnover, produces $650 million in exports each year and employs 9000 fulltime staff. This event is an excellent opportunity to show why our marine sector is among the best in the world,’ Mr Joyce says.

'It will help foster business connections and provide extensive broadcast opportunities to promote New Zealand as a premier sailing destination across our key tourism and trade markets,' Mr Joyce says.

'This Government investment will help this new concept become an iconic, home-grown sailing event.

'We look forward to seeing the event grow into one that provides significant economic and social benefits, as well as one that successfully becomes self- sustaining and independent of government support,' Mr Joyce says.

Organisers are working to attract a significant number of international competitors and linking closely with the Sydney to Hobart race, which takes place one month earlier, to help competitors coordinate their time in the Pacific, the statement concluded.

There was no indication of where the sizeable budget would be spent, and whether it would be an expenditure of this magnitude on an annual basis, or a one-off basis. No mention was made of prize-money.

No indication of entries was given at the announcement, other than to say that the entry numbers for the first race will be capped at 30 yachts, with a bottom entry length limit of 8.5 or 9 metres.

The course for the race has not been set, and in the case of rough weather on the west coast of the South Island, race promoters say they may direct boats to pass through Cook Strait, to sail up the eastern part of the South Island for the second half of the race.

The new race will start 10 days after the highly popular Bay of Islands Race Week, which is held around the fourth week in January, each year.

Race promoters placed great faith in letters of support from Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, saying they expected half the fleet to come from outside New Zealand, with the bulk of those from Australia.

Speakers at the announcement included promoter Murray Francis, Matt Woodley of the Royal Akarana YC and Tim Shadbolt, Mayor of Invercargill.

The event has received support from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) and it’s chief executive Mark Woolf.

Francis says he approached the CYCA Commodore Gary Linacre for support, his initial reaction was 'Why hasn’t anyone ever thought if this before?'. The Rolex Sydney to Hobart yacht race is recognised by the Australian Government as one of the five major events in Australia, and the departure of the yachts from Sydney is often referred to as having the largest live spectator numbers of any sporting event in the world.

The inaugural A2B Ocean Race will be take place on the sixth of February (Waitangi Day) 2014 and will embrace the latest in technology and communications to stimulate New Zealand’s passion and interest in all things nautical.