Royal Akarana Yacht Club’s 22nd race to Fiji, ANZ Sail Fiji, got underway this today at 1300 hours on a perfect, yet slightly overcast day in Auckland.

Waitemata Harbour was buzzing with activity and supporters were out in droves to farewell their family and friends in what will be an exciting race to Fiji.

Race Start. Photo by Chris Weissenborn

Race Start. Photo by Chris Weissenborn

HMNZS Manawanui was the official start boat with the pin end of the line off Orakei Wharf.  All of RAYC’s offshore races start in this area and it was once again the perfect place for spectators and on water supporters alike.

Janet Watkins signalling the start.

Janet Watkins signalling the start.

The starting signal was sounded by Janet Watkins who was involved with RAYC’s first race to Fiji in 1965. Wired was the one boat that could have potentially been over, however the line was called clear from both ends and the race was on.

Race Director John Muir said that the start was one of the best he had seen.

Vamos at the start. Photo by Fendall Halliburton

Vamos at the start. Photo by Fendall Halliburton

“It was just so exciting to see this fleet of 20 boats on our start line.  It was a clear start and everyone got away as intended.  We couldn’t have asked for anything better,” said Muir.

The two bigger boats, Beau Geste and Giacomo formed an early almighty battle and amazing tacking duel as they approached North Head.  “Water” was called from Beau Geste as they powered into the landmark headland with Giacomo forced to tack.  This display was just the beginning of a perfectly choreographed tacking formation with the bigger of the two Beau Geste, just sneaking forward and taking an early lead.  Spectators watching from North Head were in awe of the event unfolding below them.

Crowds on North Head.  Photo by Chris Weissenborn

Crowds on North Head. Photo by Chris Weissenborn

Giacomo and Beau Geste involved in a tacking duel. Photo by Chris Weissenborn

Giacomo and Beau Geste involved in a tacking duel. Photo by Chris Weissenborn

Beau Geste and Giacomo lead the fleet into the Hauraki Gulf. Photo by Chris Cameron

Beau Geste and Giacomo lead the fleet into the Hauraki Gulf. Photo by Chris Cameron

Beau Geste and Giacomo. Photo by Chris Weissenborn

Beau Geste and Giacomo. Photo by Chris Weissenborn

It’s definitely not over for Beau Geste and Giacomo – they will be keeping a very close eye on each other as they race 1,100 nautical miles to Fiji.

Wired and Akatea. Photo by Chris Weissenborn

Wired and Akatea. Photo by Chris Weissenborn

To the fifty footers now and it was V5, Wired and Vomos with Akataea on their tails who took the early advantage over Kia Kaha and Carrera.

Kia Kaha supporters on Orakei Wharf were excited as well!

Moments after the start, Django and Vamos were caught with their own duel with Django calling starboard on the TP52.

“There is something pretty awesome about calling starboard on your boyfriend on the start line of an ocean race!” said Django crew member Bex Hielkema to her boyfriend Ben Costello racing on Vamos.

Crew from Django after their start.

Crew from Django after their start.

An early report received from V5 said they were happy with their start.

“Great start to the race. Boat for boat with Wired with the other 50s just behind,” V5 boys.

Carrera also called in with an early report, equally happy.

“Settling in now and changed into our warmer gear.  We are very happy with out early progress and all’s well on board!

Steinglager 2 was elegant as she powered through the water with all 24 crew on board.  Back on the ocean racing circuit where she belongs, Steinlager 2 was a head turner for the spectators with boats surrounding her prior to the start, creating a sense of awe that Sir Peter Blake’s famour “Big Red” was still going strong.

On board Steinlager 2. Photo by Matt Woodley

On board Steinlager 2. Photo by Matt Woodley

Towards the middle and aft end of the fleet, the race was on between Crusader 35 and Bullrush but it’s the 35′ canting keeler Crusader 35 that has crept forward with an early lead.

Bullrush.  Photo by Fendall Halliburton

Bullrush. Photo by Fendall Halliburton

The fleet are all carrying yellowbrick trackers and two positions reports will come through twice daily.

Follow the race via the official website www.aucklandfiji.co.nz and the Facebook page www.facebook.com/sailfiji

Official photos and video to follow.

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