Our Boats and Friends in NZ’s Toughest Yacht Race

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If you’ve been wondering why REVS and St Laurence have been lonely [and strange] dance partners lately, it’s because the better half of our Division 1 have been getting ready and getting to Auckland for what’s reputed to be New Zealand’s toughest yacht race – the Shorthanded Sailing Association’s Round North Island Race (RNI).

The race starts from Auckland this Saturday, 25th February, and circumnavigates the North Island over four race legs and three stopovers, one of them in Wellington.

Three RPNYC boats and six Club Members are competing – Tony Wells and Vesna Wells with Blink, Becs Davies and Meric Davies with Wedgetail, and Geoff Herd and Phil Gurnsey with The Guarantee.

The father and daughter crew of Becs Davies and Meric Davies are taking the Welbourn 42 Wedgetail on another lap of the big fish. This Wedgetail (there are others ) was built in Brisbane in 2005 and raced successfully in Australia before being bought and sailed by Meric to Wellington in 2011. The story goes that Wedgetail had a sail for each of her 42 feet, though most of them weren’t Wellingtonised.

Now with new sails Wedgetail has been raced hard both inshore and offshore, winning the inaugural Two Handed Central Triangle in 2013 as a warm up for the 2014 RNI, in which Becs and Meric finished 3rd on IRC. Wedgetail was dismasted off The Brothers in the 2016 Nelson Race, so Meric has worked hard to get the boat back for this lap. This has been a bit more difficult than most programmes for the RNI – Becs is based in Nelson, Meric in Blenheim, and the boat in Wellington.

Tony and Vesna have been sailing together since they bought their previous boat, the Young 11 Clear Vision in 2008. They entered the 2011 RNI but decided not to continue after the Wellington stopover. Having had to deliver the boat from Wellington to Auckland for the start, I guess they actually went around the North Island but, you know, unfinished business. So they had Blink designed and built with this race in mind.

This is Vesna’s second two-handed RNI and Tony’s third – he won line honours in the 2014 race with Rob Shaw, Blink’s designer, not long after Blink was launched. Tony and Vesna have also competed in the crewed version of this race, and recently placed third on line in the 2016 Auckland-Fiji Race.

Blink is a canting-keeled, all-carbon 12m race boat designed by Rob Shaw and built by Craig Partridge Yachts for tough Cook Strait conditions. The boat holds several RPNYC offshore race records and set the Wine Race record in the 2016 Wineworks Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Race across Cook Strait.

Since arriving in Auckland early 2016 to prepare for this race, The Guarantee with Geoff Herd and Phil Gurnsey has competed in the ANZAC 250 and the Triple Series.

Phil and Geoff have been sailing together since 2006 and did their first big two-handed race in 2007 when they won the Wellington to Lyttleton Two Handed race in Splash Palace (Ross 930). Finishing in Lyttleton Harbour, where a young Phil learned to sail in dinghies, was a high point for both. They were all set for the 2011 RNI when, just four weeks from the start, Splash Palace was dismasted while returning from the Bay of Islands Race Week. Despite having qualified and with everything else in place, there wasn’t enough time to get the boat fixed and on the start line.

Geoff decided to up-size and bought the slightly larger Ross 10.66, The Guarantee, from Murray Bridge. The boat is well set up for breezy Cook Strait conditions and the boys are feeling good about this one..

Geoff has been involved in RNI race management since 2002, mostly looking after the Wellington stopover, so it’s great to see Geoff lining up as a competitor this time around.

[This article is based on content on the SSANZ FaceBook page]

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