In 30 short days Royal Akarana Yacht Club will fire an almighty big cannon to officially start their 22nd race to Fiji – ANZ Sail Fiji.
Entries close on Sunday 11 May and to date the fleet numbers sit at 19 racing and two cruising.
Amongst those 19 in the racing fleet are crowd favourites Giacomo (Jim Delegat) and Beau Geste (Karl Kwok) who last lined up together at the 2013 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.
Beau Geste pipped Giacomo at the post with just 100 meters to go, to cross the line one minute at six seconds ahead. After 628 miles it truly was a spectacular way to finish Australia’s premier race.
But the ANZ Sail Fiji Race is a 1,100 nautical miles taking the fleet from Auckland to Denarau, an ocean crossing where everything is possible and anything can happen.
Gavin Brady, helmsman of Hong Kong Yacht Club’s Beau Geste says that although they managed to get one over Giacomo in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, that didn’t mean anything for the ANZ Sail Fiji challenge.
“The guys on Giacomo have been racing their boat a lot more than we have, they would clearly have to be the favourite and we (Beau Geste) is going to have to sail extremely well to stay with them,” said Brady.
“Giacomo is a tried and tested boat having won the Volvo Ocean Race, and it’s a boat that is built for these kinds of races so we believe that they will be setting the benchmark. But it’s a long race! Who knows what will happen in the end.
“At the moment we are focusing on getting the Beau Geste systems back in place. The boat is currently at Cookson’s getting double and triple checked before she goes back in the water for crew training before race day,” said Brady.
Three boats have entered ANZ Sail Fiji within the last few days. Surreal (Beneteau 47.7), V5 (TP52) and Vamos (TP5) which has shaped the fleet up nicely. A great mix of boats across the board will provide plenty of fleet in fleet races, especially amongst the 50 footers.
The only three maned crew Ilemanja consists of three generations of yachtsman. Steve Henry, owner and skipper of the Peterson 40 designed yacht, is racing to Fiji with his father, and son.
One of the smaller boats in the fleet, the Elliott 35 SS Crusader 35 (Anthony Leighs) has just completed their 250 nautical mile qualifying leg to ensure the boat and crew are ready for the challenge that awaits them.
The canting keeler has been a regular on the Auckland racing scene since being launched in 2012, but ANZ Sail Fiji will be their longest race to date.
Boat captain Brett Elliott says that the crew are excited about the race, especially after their “awesome” rides during the qualifier.
“Unfortunately we had some issues with our instruments, but we think we saw about 30 knots of breeze and hit around 22 knots of boat speed.
“The boat handled it really well and we are definitely looking forward to the race. Now though we need to make sure everything is ready to go. We need to sort out the instruments and get a keel and rig check before our Category 1 sign off, but then we’re all good to go,” said Elliott.
Josh Tucker, a local identity on the Auckland racing scene is a crew member on Crusader 35 for ANZ Sail Fiji and was on board during the qualifier.
“It was awesome! Epic! I can’t wait for the race. We’re a great bunch of mates on a great boat. Bring it on!”
The racing fleet will start the ANZ Sail Fiji race on Saturday 7th June at 1pm.