The Auckland and northern love-affair with Napier's annual offshore powerboat race was obvious as teams and boats arrived ahead of the big event starting late Saturday morning.

The race has been around longer than just about any other and despite a downturn in the number of boats this year and the possibility the race might not have been able to go ahead, team member John (J.R.) Redwood says the New Zealand Offshore Power Boat Racing Association stepped in to help make it happen: "Everybody loves coming here."

With Auckland-based six-litre catamaran Rainbow Haulage and drivers Colin Dunn and Darren Butterworth, he arrived on Friday, and soon found conditions likely to be almost ideal.

"We've just taken it out to see what it's like," he said standing in the hot early-afternoon sun rinsing the hull, just under 24 hours before start-time. "There's a bit of a swell, which is what we like, and with a little bit of puff up in the race it could be interesting."

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The fleet, in several classes, will race two 30-minute segments on an anti-clockwise course off Westshore and Ahuriri. The first race starts at 11.30am, and the second between 12.15 and 12.30pm.

A closed water notice excluding other boating and swimming during and around the racing will be in place, with patrol boats in the area.

While in the heyday there were well over 20 entries, about 10 will start Saturday's race.
"It's a little bit disappointing," said Redwood. "But it's what I call a gap year, there are a lot of boats around, just not racing this year...for a whole variety of reasons."

Meanwhile, the Napier Port is planning a safety fence in an area which some times become a boat race vantage point.

The fence expected to be installed later in the year, will separate the Port headquarters carpark from the community beach area where race watchers sometimes gather to watch the boats turn to head north from the leg across the face of the Hardinge Rd foreshore.