They were hassled when they first appeared but Elliotts have lasted the distance well

Thirty years after their impressive debut, the first three Elliott 5.9s are still racing competitively and will be taking part in this weekend's Auckland Regatta.

In 1983, when the Elliott 5.9s first appeared, they were not universally welcomed. These days, designer Greg Elliott's plumb stems, flared hulls and big cockpits are a familiar sight, but 30 years ago it was a very different story.

Reactions to their first appearance, at the 1983 New Zealand Trailer Yacht National Regatta, ranged from amusement to outright hostility.

Brzo, Zoot Allures and Mod, the three debutantes were accused of being rule-breakers and not being proper trailer yachts at all but merely dinghies with decks on.


However, as Shane Kelly, editor of the then-dominant Sea Spray magazine, rightly observed, the 5.9 was neither.

"The boat was conceived as a day sailer," he wrote, "which would allow people to spend a night or two on board.

"Above all else, it was designed to provide fast, fun sailing for young people whose budgets were limited."

Regardless of the views of those on the more established classes, Elliott's three little flyers punched well above their weight, excelling first in the lighter winds, especially downwind, and then totally dominating as conditions freshened.

Zoot Allures, reportedly still being finished just an hour before its first race, sailed by owner Brett Reed and with Elliott on board, cleaned up the E Division, winning line honours in every race.

Brzo, launched and sailed by Garry Banks (later a business partner of Elliott) cleaned up D Division on line while even Mod, which was sailed by owner Robert Cross (who had never sailed in a race before) proved capable of beating established Olympic yachtsmen around the marks.

All three initial 5.9s will compete again in this weekend's Elliott 5.9 Nationals as part of the annual Auckland Regatta.

Zoot Allures is now owned and raced by Dave Cochran and is a multiple national champion. So, too, is the refurbished Brzo, which is now owned and raced by Gillian Williams and class association president Nathan Williams.

Mod, now renamed Blurr, has been refurbished by Simon Manning and Andy Robertson and will be hoping to break her long winning drought (she is yet to win a national championship).

Joining them on the Elliott 5.9 start line for the Auckland Regatta will be former international sailor of the year and Volvo Ocean Race winner Mike Sanderson, a former national champion in the class who is returning after 21 years away and has bought two-time national champion Icebreaker.

The Elliott 5.9s are one of seven classes taking part in the Auckland Regatta from March 22 to 24.

Run by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Bucklands Beach Yacht Club, the regatta includes a variety of windward-leeward races, a scenic passage race around the islands of the inner Hauraki Gulf.

Social activities include the popular Steinlager Beach Party on Motuihe Island.

The Auckland Regatta, now in its sixth year, will host four national championship events and approximately 14 different divisions.

Among the more than 90 yachts taking part are fleets of 8.5 multihulls, Ross 930s, Elliott 7s, Farr 1020s, Young 88s and Open divisions for keelers and multihulls (the latter including speedsters Charleston, TeamVodafoneSailing, Ninja and Foiled).

The Young 88 racing, in particular, is expected to be intense.

The event comes straight after the sprint race series for the class. Owner Mike Leyland said the crews were looking forward to the slightly longer courses, which will allow more time for tactics to come to the fore. Class favourites include Panama Jack and Abracadabra.

However, Medium Dry, Danger Zone and Men at Work all have new owners, making them something of an unknown quantity.

The regatta will also have an international flavour, thanks to the Pacific Keelboat Challenge, organised by MRX Yachting's Tom Macky.

The Challenge will see four international clubs go head-to-head in Farr MRX yachts. the clubs are: Melbourne's Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, the Sandringham Yacht Club, Sydney's Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club and Le Cercle Nautique Caledonien from New Caledonia

Another to watch will be Emirates Team New Zealand naval architect Pete Melvin, who has bought a second-hand trimaran called Mama Tried.

He has built new amas (outer hulls) for the tri, inspired by his work in the America's Cup and on the various other racing multihulls designed by his company Morrelli & Melvin.

Although he chose the 8.5 because it was a boat in which he could cruise up and down the coast on with his wife and three sons, he will definitely be in competitive mode for the regatta.

Melvin, the winner of 30 national and continental championships and three world championships, expects the Auckland Regatta, which doubles as the 8.5's nationals, to be the class' best-attended event of the year.

Racing in the regatta, which is being run the Auckland Regatta Trust, will feature a mix of windward-leeward sprints and longer harbour courses and be held in the inner Hauraki Gulf, around the Northern Leading Light.

Auckland Regatta
When: March 22 to 24

Where: Inner Hauraki Gulf

Includes: 4 National Championships, 14 divisions, Pacific Keelboat Challenge

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