For six years, the red and white sails of Simon Hull's trimaran have dominated line honours in the Auckland Coastal Classic but this year they have some serious competition.

Hull first won line honours in the race in 2010 and has won every race since, except for 2013 when Team Australia triumphed, and also established a new race record in 2014 of 5 hours, 13 minutes and 21 seconds for the 119 nautical mile race.

His Frank Racing Orma 60 will be among the favourites again this year, and will have three-time America's Cup helmsman Jimmy Spithill on board, but might not have it all his own way with the entry of the Mod70, a giant trimaran, Beau Geste.

"It's fantastic to have some close competition," Hull said. "Hopefully they are only close competition and we can stay close to them. We are stoked to have another high performance multihull in the race. It's a newer and bigger boat so we have certainly got our work cut out but we will be going as hard as we can.


"I'm hoping the boats are close enough in performance that it will come down to who makes the right calls rather than that they run away from us. Traditionally the boats are fairly close in performance. They are a bit bigger but slightly heavier. I don't think there's going to be a lot in it."

It could come down to tactics, and that's where Spithill comes in. Hull contacted the evergreen Australian when he heard Spithill was due in New Zealand the following week for a speaking engagement and he will join the team on the eve of the race.

"We'll use him every which way we can," Hull said. "Probably first and foremost we will use his tactical nous but it would be silly not to give him the handlebars and watch how he drives it, too. He is, after all, the only person to ever helm an America's Cup in a trimaran.

"It will be wonderful to have him on the boat and have all his input both from the skills he brings and the focus he will bring to our team and making sure we do every damn thing we can to eke out every bit of speed."

They will need it, because Beau Geste is quick. Formerly known as Phaedo3, it has smashed records, including the Fastnet Race, Bermuda to Plymouth by more than a week and the record for sailing Around the Isle of Wight that had previously been held by Ben Ainslie's Land Rover/BAR America's Cup team.

It's now owned by Karl Kwok in his first foray into mulithulls and it has been a steep learning curve for his largely Kiwi crew headed by former Olympian and multiple America's Cup sailor Gavin Brady.

There have been some uncomfortable moments as they learn to sail the boat, including when they got their hands on it and sailed it from Hawaii to New Zealand.

"We are still a little apprehensive to really enjoy the boat but we're getting there," said Brady, who has completed 16 Sydney to Hobart races. "We're still wondering when this thing is going to bite us.

"Our coach has a code - green, orange and red cards for when we're out of control. He's gone red on us three times in five days of sailing. I don't know if that's good or bad. We're going to have the most life-memorable times on this boat but also the most terrifying - it's extreme - and those two scenarios can happen in one day on the Hauraki Gulf."

About 152 boats will line up for the race start off Devonport wharf on Friday morning, 12 more than last year, ranging in length from Floydy Boy (7.8m) to Shaman (26.8m). Most should be finished within 12 hours, and overall honours is wide open due to the handicap system, but they won't see Frank Racing and Beau Geste for long.

# Michael Brown is Yachting New Zealand communications manager