- Race starts don’t come better than this! Sun, spectacular sailing, speed, and strategy in Waitematā Harbour as OGR yachts scramble across the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron start line.
- Emotional scenes with tears, hugs, last-minute nerves and even fear on the Jellicoe pontoons for Leg 3 and the infamous Cape Horn.
- The long festive Auckland stopover, steeped in Whitbread history, was a phenomenal success thanks to support from Tātaki Auckland Unlimited.
- Last minute problems for Explorer AU (28) missing the start with engine issues
Imagine, iconic yachts powering down Auckland Harbour with real purpose. It made for a thrilling start to Leg 3 of the Ocean Globe Race. Next stop, Yacht Club Punta del Este, Uruguay but first CAPE HORN. In perfect North Easterly 15-20 knot winds it looked easy. A tight start line in front of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron delivered great pictures as yachts fought for the line. Tight tacks, ducking and diving, making it difficult to tell who’d actually crossed the line first. Four yachts arrived too early with last minute maneuvers to save themselves and one forced gybe breaking batten cars on L’Esprit d’équipe.
The French Swan 53 Triana FR (66), skippered by Jean D’Arthuys currently sitting 4th in IRC ranking overall, burst through and succeeded in clinching first spot, just seconds ahead of the Finnish yacht Galiana WithSecure FI (06) and Australian entrant Outlaw AU (28). For an around-the-world race where a few seconds do not make much difference, this was seriously close racing.
The pontoons of Jellicoe Harbour buzzed with anticipation, nerves and excitement as the first yacht, Translated 9 IT (09) current IRC leader, slipped lines at noon, followed by the fleet at three-minute intervals. With a short stat line right in front of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, many spectator boats and onshore spectators enjoyed the fantastic nautical performance, much like the scenes witnessed back in 1977 when the Whitbread first visited Auckland.
The OGR yachts, including seven former Whitbread yachts put on a display befitting the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the original Whitbread races, with many Whitbread veterans cheering on the fleet from the decks of the legendary Steinlager 2 and Lion New Zealand.
At 14:00hrs local time Sunday 14th , Sarah-Jane Blake, daughter of the much adored late Sir Peter Blake, who won every leg on the Whitbread onboard Steinlager 2 fired the start cannon from the traditional wooden brigantine Breeze. Curated by New Zealand Maritime Museum, she was the official start boat on the 1990 Whitbread.
Speaking before the race start Sarah-Jane admitted she holds a special place in her heart for ‘old style sailing’ - and the Ocean Globe Race, whose yachts are sailing like it’s 1973.
“It’s always exciting being on a start line and there’s some breeze out there so it's going to be great. And I’m sure during the day I’ll be feeling emotional as it brings back memories, it's amazing to still have the Whitbread connection and that it’s still going so strong. I’m really happy people still want to sail old style - it’s way more adventurous,” said Sarah-Jane, who admitted her favorite OGR yacht is Maiden UK (03).
Just seconds separated the yachts crossing the start line, and despite initial fears, none crossed early. A spaghetti junction of crisscrossing helms and sterns made for breath-holding tense viewing in the last 10 seconds, exactly what you want for the start of such a momentous adventure. Fortunately no collisions.
Don McIntyre OGR Director and Founder was naturally delighted with the start. Earlier in the day during the official crew photograph he told the sailors of the pride he felt in their achievement to date, recognised the challenges they faced ahead in the daunting sail around Cape Horn and instructed them in no uncertain terms - to stay safe.
“Wow, the start was everything you could hope for. These sailors have worked so hard to get here and they have a lot of sailing ahead of them to get around Horn Cape. Anything can happen over the next 6000 miles to Uruguay. Auckland’s Whitbread history has become part of the OGR story now and has proven to be just as fantastic as we knew it would be. So a start like today is befitting this stopover. Almost like a thank you to our great hosts,” said Don.
Thanks to the support of Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, Auckland has proved an extremely popular stopover for everyone involved with the OGR. Returning in four years for the next edition is high on the agender.
Richard Clarke, Director, Arts, Entertainment and Events at Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, host city partner for the stopover explained what having the race meant to the city.
“Having Tāmaki Makaurau as a stopover for the Ocean Globe Race provided an economic boost to the region over the summer holiday period. It also continued Auckland’s long standing tradition as a host for world class sailing events and celebrating the relationship between the city, the Waitematā and the wider Hauraki Gulf. Having the competing teams in Auckland over the period of the stopover has been a boost for our tourism sector and the marine industry, especially those specialising in boat maintenance and supplies.
We also know that some of the competitors have taken the time to explore Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. We really enjoyed having the international teams here and we know that they have fond memories of their time in Auckland,” said Richard.
With the 12 yachts across the start line, the fleet raced towards the Royal Akarana Yacht Club, leaving a marker to port then across towards the gate at North Head. It didn’t take long before the familiar patterns of leaders emerged - Spirit of Helsinki FI (71), Pen Duick VI FR (14), Translated 9 IT (09) and Maiden UK (03) were all battling for the first spot. By sunrise on the first morning of racing Pen Duick VI had taken the lead.
Not all OGR yachts were lucky enough to experience that unforgettable Auckland start line. Explorer AU (28) failed to make the start line. Arriving just a week before the start the crew of the Swan 57 suffered further disappointment with a faulty fuel injection pump just three days before the start. Race rules require an engine. Parts were finally being installed Monday and the following sea should sail Tuesday morning.
It was only a matter of hours before the crews on the ocean at last reflected on what they felt about the start tweeting via satellite from onboard.
“After a magnificent start courtesy of the Kiwis, everyone takes their time on this first night under a beautiful starry sky,” Tweeted Neptune FR (56)
“I was taught as a kid that if you are not over the line early in one start out of seven, you are not trying enough. Today I tried:),” Tweeted Galiana WithSecure FI (06)
“Spectacular start with wind, sun & amazing boats giving splendid pics. White Shadow ranks well after 24h race. Fair weather 4 next day. All crew entering in rhythm,” Tweeted White Shadow ESP (17)
But not everyone is so happy!
“A mixed start in terms of team spirit: tight to the bow, forced to gybe and broken batten cars. But we're not giving up!” Reported L’Esprit d’équipe.
With 6200 nm to the Yacht Club Punta del Este, the first yachts will arrive between 9-14th of February with a restart scheduled for March 5.
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