Yacht race cancelled due to wrecked container ship debris

Rena breaks up on Astolabe Reef, Tauranga 3 April 2012

Floating wreckage and oil spilled from the wrecked container ship MV Rena, has forced the cancellation of the Auckland to Tauranga Race, less than 24 hours before the race was due to start on Thursday 5 April.

There 22 entrants listed for the race, which included the ORMA60 trimaran Team Vodafone Sailing, which was expected to break the race record, on her third attempt.

Organisers say the doubt created by the possibility of debris from the Rena as a result of recent gales has led to the Tauranga Yacht and Powerboat Club cancelling this annual Easter Weekend event.

Given the forecast for continuing south-easterly winds any wreckage is likely to be scattered through the area that the racing yachts will be sailing through during the latter part of the Race. The forecast for continued strong easterly quarter gales and heavy seas was also a factor in the decision.

Team Vodafone Sailing pictured in the BMW Auckland Regatta, she was expected to break the Auckland Tauranga race record

Race Chairman Ross Sheerin says 'The race organizing committee has been monitoring Rena developments throughout our planning. Unfortunately the events of the last few days equate to our worst case scenario in terms of holding the race. We have been in constant contact with Maritime NZ and the Tauranga Harbourmaster, and have evaluated their input. Regretfully, and in respect for participant’s safety, the only prudent option at this stage is to cancel this year’s race.'

Club Commodore Wayne Eaton adds 'Our sailing season this year have been very challenging as a result of the Rena disaster. We have had several events affected throughout the summer. Like everyone, we look forward to when things return to normal, but until then, we will continue to be sensible in our decisions.'

Rena breaks up on Astolabe Reef, Tauranga 3 April 2012

The 236metre MV Rena ran aground on Astrolabe Reef on 5 October at 0220hrs at a speed of 17kts, after a series of navigational errors. She was fully laden with almost 1400 containers and 1700 tonnes of fuel oil, some of which leaked into the pristine waters off the East Coast of New Zealand. The clean up operation has cost over $130million (NZD). After recent storms the ship has broken in two and the stern section has sunk. A further storm this week, prompted the release of more oil and containers and other debris, forcing the race cancellation.

A flyover of the wreck to today showed that the wreck was being battered by 7-10metre swells.

The Auckland to Tauranga Race was first sailed in 1921 and is TYPBC’s premier annual event for coastal racers.

MV Rena being pounded by 7-10 metre seas on the Astrolabe Reef, 4 April 2012

MV Rena being pounded by 7-10 metre seas on the Astrolabe Reef, 4 April 2012

MV Rena being pounded by 7-10 metre seas on the Astrolabe Reef, 4 April 2012

MV Rena being pounded by 7-10 metre seas on the Astrolabe Reef, 4 April 2012