The 23rd ANZ Sail Fiji started on time today with the sound signal bellowing from the HMNZS HAWERA.

Over 100 spectator boats were on the Waitemata Harbour between North Head and Orakei Wharf to farewell the fleet before they embarked on the 1,100 nautical mile passage in a very light south westerly.

Anarchy (AJ Reid) blitzed the start at the leeward end of the line and were looking famous as they crossed ahead of Miss Scarlett (William Goodfellow) and Giacomo (Jim Delegat). Crusader35 (Anthony Leighs) was also in that mix, but looked too buried to come out alive.

Crusader35 looked like they were going to be early for the start and did a brief luff therefore losing momentum. But three minutes into the race it was all about Crusader35 after Anarchy fell into a hole near Bean Rock and stopped. They were looking famous and although are the smallest boat in the fleet, took an early lead over everyone.

Josh “Booboo” Tucker, crew member on board Crusader35 was all smiles.

“We nailed it!” he cheered as they steamed ahead.

Team Vodafone Sailing, the ORMA 60, the widest boat in the fleet, played it safe and stayed back from the line. They slowly worked their way through the fleet and by Rangitoto Light had established their obvious domination. Ave Gitana, the Crowther 40, struggled in the light, sticking to the water unable to make headway.

Ran Tan II (Brian Petersen), made an early appearance at the front of the fleet, and although they were trailing Crusader35, were the lead monohull by Rangitoto Light.

“After a slow start we have picked up some breeze and we are the leading monohull at Rangi Light – Chickens flap your wings!” was posted on the Ran Tan II Facebook page.

By Rangitoto Light Anarchy had recovered and contacted RAYC Race Control to provide an early update.

“We actually stopped and then went backwards at one point! But we are on the move now and Giacomo is just about to gybe near us but we should still be ahead of them. We are all smiles on board now!” said skipper AJ Reid.

Looking at the forecast, the fleet are getting their gybes in early as they fight to find what little breeze is out there. As the fleet makes their way up the coast, they will find the south easterly breeze of around 20-25 knots which will slingshot the faster boats up the track and it will also mean the slower boats will get pushed up before the anticipated shift to the north in a few days time.

The biggest boat boat in the fleet, Shaman (Gary Lewis), is 80 foot of comfort, however with some die hard sailors on board, they will be looking to push the bus hard the whole way to Fiji.

One possible sleeper in the fleet is Itchy Feet (Jody Casey), the 46′ Paul Stock design, which is reputedly well suited to the heavy downwind and reaching conditions that are forecast. The boat has been absent from the offshore racing scene for a number of years, but may well come into the handicap reckoning once the race progresses.

ANZ Sail Fiji is the signature offshore race of the Royal Akarana Yacht Club and this 23rd race to Fiji will again be one for the record books.

More photos coming soon.

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By Suellen Hurling & Simon Manning

Header Image: ANZ Sail Fiji Start. © Lissa Reyden | ANZ Sail Fiji