This year's Coast Classic fleet will include a keen 14-year-old, sailing two-handed in his own 35-year-old 7m yacht.
Edwin Delaat is not your average young sailor. Not only has he a rather impressive CV, he has also declared his intention to sail in a Volvo Ocean Race. However, unlike other young sailors with similar ambitions, this young man is forging a rather unconventional path.
While most budding young sailors focus on the traditional youth classes until they are adults, Edwin has supplemented his career in dinghies by sailing in adult keelboat classes. Even more impressively, he has done so aboard a boat he saved for and owns himself.
This winter, the young Delaat spent the cold, wet and windy months tackling the gruelling B&G Simrad two-handed series in his little Farr 737, Crac-a-Jac.
And the young competitor wasn't there to just make up the numbers, either.
In each of the progressively longer races, he collected a podium finish in his division.
This success will have come as no surprise to those who know him. For a lad barely into his teenage years he has already achieved more than many sailors two, three or four times his age.
Last year he was the youngest skipper in the 2009 HSBC Premier Coastal Classic and his pint-sized yacht was one of the smallest in the 200-boat fleet.
He also boasts a raft of marine qualifications, including a NZ GPS Operator Certificate; was named Rayc Academy Sailor of the Year for 2010 (in his first year in 420 class dinghies); and is now a member of the prestigious Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Youth Scheme.
According to his father, Adrian, Delaat has averaged 20 hours or more each week on the water over the years of his sailing career.
"He is just a young yachtie with that dream and he has his own action plan to go with it," he says.
Joining Delaat as his sole companion on their two-handed Coastal Classic quest will be experienced yacht racer Steve Alloway.
A veteran of 30 years of club racing, fully crewed and two-handed and a member of many trophy-winning crews (including Coastal Classic, Gold Cup and Bean Rock Trophy), Alloway brings a wealth of coastal yacht racing miles to the team.
He also brings a lot of respect for his young skipper.
"Edwin is keen to learn all aspects of yachting; he eats and sleeps sailing," says Alloway.
"He is great to sail with; trustworthy, reliable and extremely focused."
Between them, the pair have completed 27 Coastal Classics: Delaat's contribution being three.
By choosing the Farr 737 as his steed, Delaat has, perhaps unconsciously, also selected a small yacht that has already helped launch the careers of some of our most notable sailing personalities. It is the model that helped Bruce Farr on his stellar path through international yacht design and it is the yacht aboard which Roy Dickson won the 1975 World Quarter Ton Cup Championship.
Given reasonable conditions Crac-a-Jac should average around five knots in the Coastal Classic, meaning the 119 nautical mile race should take the pair about 24 hours to complete.
This will, of course, be in stark contrast to last year's winner, the supermaxi Alfa Romeo, which broke a 13-year record drought to set an overall record of six hours and 43 minutes.
This year, all eyes (apart from those following young Delaat and Crac-a-Jac) will be on Simon Hull's Orma 60, TeamVodafoneSailing, which be aiming, with some optimism, at breaking the six-hour barrier for the first time.
A classic adventure
The 2010 HSBC Premier Coastal Classic starts from 10am on Friday, October 22 off Devonport Wharf in Auckland, and finishes off Russell Wharf in the Bay of Islands. Those interested can get updates and follow the race on coastalclassic.co.nz.