A traditional boat built from scratch in a Northland couple's island backyard - they even poured the lead keel and felled the trees themselves - has cleaned up in this year's Tall Ships and Classic Invitational Race off Russell.

Shanty, a gaff-rigged yawl built by Jim and Terri Cottier, won the classic division on Saturday of the 16-nautical mile race in conditions which were fickle even by Northland standards.

The couple also took home the Zeke Patterson trophy for best gaff-rigged boat and the Joe Cotton trophy for best wooden boat.

Check out the photos here:


The event has been organised by the Russell Boating Club for the past 41 years and is more a social event and a celebration of sail than a serious race.

Club commodore Tony Hanlon said this year's course was cut short due to the rapidly changing conditions.

The race started in a light northerly which switched to a nor'westerly peaking at 16 knots for the leg to Moturua Island, then a squall blew through and the wind died completely for the leg to Brampton buoy. Even after the race was cut short a few boats took five hours to get back to Russell.

Some contestants took part just for fun while others made a real go of winning.

"But the whole thing is meant to be a spectacle of sail. The racing is secondary. It's about participating, fellowship, exhibiting your boat, and encouraging people to get out and enjoy the Bay," Mr Hanlon said.

He was always amazed by how the people of Russell, even if they were not boaties or club members, supported the event.

"Everyone comes in and gives a hand."

The hangi in particular, which this year fed 750 people but has in the past catered for 1500, was a huge community effort.

Mr Hanlon said an all-comers division, open to any kind of boat, was created a few years ago to encourage more people to take part. The prizes, and placings, were drawn at random.

Standouts in the all-comers this year included the 111-foot superyacht Silvertip and Team Marwin's foiling catamaran, owned by a Swiss Olympic sailor and based in the Bay since last week. Team Marwin easily claimed line honours.

The winning skipper in the classic division, Jim Cottier, said he had taken part in the race for a long time, first as captain of the tall ship Soren Larsen and since 2008 in his own boat, Shanty.

Mr Cottier and his wife Terri, caretakers on Motuarohia/Roberton Island, built the traditional yawl on their lawn, basing it on the design of boats common in southern England in the late 1800s.

They poured the lead keel themselves, spent five years collecting the kauri planking, made the mast and sails, and even felled trees for the framing.

Meanwhile, no one was more surprised when the 80-foot steel ketch Sylfia won the tall ships division than the vessel's skippers, Kerikeri siblings Sofia and Sylvan Kuczera.

Accepting the trophy Ms Kuczera paid tribute to her late father, Bernard Kuczera, a Polish-born seafarer who built the Sylfia and whose spirit lived on in the boat.

It was the second time Sylfia had won the division.


Tall ships: 1 Sylfia, 2 Regulus, 3 Riada (also line honours), 4 Arcadian (also first junk-rigged boat), 5 Lakatoa.

Classic invitational: 1 Shanty (also first gaff-rigged boat and first wooden boat), 2 Restless, 3 Cora, 4 Lucille, 5 Ah Ti (also line honours).

Cock of the Bay (line honours, all-comers division): Team Marwin.

In total 14 tall ships took part this year (defined as having two or more masts and at least 30 foot on the deck), 44 classics and 36 all-comers.