With more than 180 boats expected to take part in tomorrow's Coastal Classic, a 119-nautical mile jaunt from Devonport to Russell, Dana Johannsen provides a preview of the event.
Start: Tomorrow, 10am
Forecast: North-west winds of 17-21 knots are forecast start. A weak front may pass over the race course on Friday evening, after which the breeze will lighten off and move west and then south west on Friday night.
Best viewing spots: Devonport, North Head, Tamaki Drive
The 119-nautical mile course, which begins off Devonport Wharf in Auckland's Waitemata Harour, and finishes at Russell Wharf in the Bay of Islands is more or less a straight line drag, especially from Auckland to Cape Brett.
Things can change a bit at Cape Rodney as the course bends slightly more west. Skippers need to decide based on the weather and wind direction whether they stay inside or outside the Hen and Chick Islands - and thread the needle at Cape Brett - or stay well clear to avoid the infamous light winds there. Once they round the corner it is a straight out charge to the finish line.
Depending on what type of boat you are on the race can be a sprint or a marathon: it takes anything from sub six hours for the fastest boats, to more than 24 hours for the smaller non-performance boats.
Holder of the overall race record, the mighty red trimaran owned by skipper Simon Hull is so far unrivalled in New Zealand. The 60ft trimaran has taken line honours in the past four Coastal Classics, but will face stiff competition this year.
Almost identical to TeamVodafone's 'Big Red', Team Australia's Orma 60 nicknamed 'Big Bird' set a record transtasman crossing on their way from Sydney to Auckland for the Coastal Classic. Skippered by Sean Langman, Team Australia have also set a ratified speed record for the famous stretch of water between Sydney and Hobart and has been expertly prepared for this race.
Taeping, a 13.5m catamaran, is owned by Dave Andrews and is continuously updated and improved. Taeping won the 2007 and 2008 events, and placed third last year. Taeping is more than capable of hanging on to the Orma 60s downwind, but upwind the bigger boats can be twice as quick.
A new entrant to the Coastal Classic, Giacomo is arguably one of the most high-tech monohulls in existence. The 70ft boat was formerly known as Groupama, which won the most recent edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. The crew are using the Classic to prepare for the upcoming Sydney to Hobart in December.
Owned by Jim Farmer, the 52-ft Botin Carkeck designed Georgia is one of the stand-outs in the fleet of big keelboats.
The talking points
•With a weak front expected later today, it is unlikely the course record will be threatened, but it does give the boats that excel at upwind sailing the first opportunity in five years to show their stuff. According to PredictWind.com, the extreme trimarans TeamVodafone and Team Australia are expected to finish in between 7.5 and 8.5 hours. TeamVodafone has finished in less than six hours for the last two years, and holds the race record of five hours and 41 minutes.
•Olympic boardsailor JP Tobin plans to line up in the start of the Coastal Classic and race the superboats for the first 30km up to the Whangaparaoa passage on standard Olympic windsurfing equipment. Tobin had originally planned to contest the entire race, however the forecast indicated a wind direction that would have potentially taken a couple of days on a windsurfer.
•Tomorrow also marks the arrival of the spectacular Tall Ships festival in Auckland. The flotilla of eight celebrated historic ships are expected to arrive in the Waitemata Harbour between 2-3pm ahead of the weekend-long festivities.