As Vic & Emily on board High Voltage make their way to the Round North Island finish line, I am filled with a mixture of emotions.
Firstly relief that they’ve almost made it around the North Island with both them and the boat in one piece. A huge sense of pride that they have achieved their dream of competing in this iconic race. I am filled with gratitude for all the people who have helped them get there, and also a sense of disappointment that it is all going to be over!
It seems like a few people are feeling that same sense of disappointment. “What are we going to do next week without checking the Burnsco YB tracker every 5 minutes!?” people ask me, and I nod understandingly wondering the same thing myself.
The Evolution Sails Two Handed Round North Island Yacht Race is considered to be one of New Zealand’s toughest yacht races. First run 43 years ago, the race was the brainchild of Sir Peter Blake and the 2020 race is the 13th time it has been run.
On Saturday the 22nd February 2020, 38 yachts started in Auckland with the 154 mile first leg to Mangonui. (If you’ve been following along you’ll know that this was quite an eventful leg for High Voltage.) With most yachts finishing throughout the day on Sunday and with a planned 24 hour stopover the race restarted again on Monday lunch time.
Leg 2 was from Mangonui, down the West Coast of the North Island and in to Wellington. A huge 550 miles. A frustrating stationary high left the ocean glassy calm and a large chunk of the fleet sat becalmed for a number of days. High Voltage made it in to Wellington on Saturday night.
We had a 48 hour stopover this time, with the race restarting on Monday 2nd March. Leg three was a 200 mile upwind bash to Napier. High Voltage only just made it to the start line and arrived in Napier on Wednesday 4th in the afternoon.
The 4th and final leg 367 miles from Napier to Auckland started on Friday 6th and the girls will finish on Monday 9th March.
The race is essentially a marathon. Right from the date that you decide you are going to do the race and right up until the time you cross the finish line in Auckland. We’ve learned that it is a really long hard slog to get both the boat and the crew (and the shore crew!) around the race course.
The race would not have been possible without all the incredible organisation of the Short Handed Sailing Association of New Zealand. Deb and Sarah in particular have put in a mammoth amount of work over the last two weeks – literally working around the clock with getting races started, finished, coordinating the volunteers, keeping track of the sailors and doing an incredible job of their social media. These girls deserve a medal.
It would also not be possible without some fellow competitors to race against. With entries in to the race selling out within 45 minutes, the event is popular! What made the race for me though is that while everyone is competing on the race course – on the stopovers they all chip in to help fix each others boats! A huge special thanks to Duty Free for suspending racing and standing by when High Voltage had issues on the first leg, to all the other Elliott 1050 skippers and Sally from Coppelia who gave a huge amount of advice before the race, Richard & Brendan on Kick who helped fix a number of things on board. Vesna and Gordy – shore crew for Blink for quite literally saving the day in Wellington and again in Napier. To the Motorboat boys for lending us some dive gear too and to everyone else who have been super supportive of the High Voltage team.
Thanks also to the fabulous and talented Suellen and her Live Sail Die team for all their footage and promotion of the event.
The hospitality we have had at all the stopovers has also been really heartwarming. From the wonderful crew BBQ at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron pre race, then on to the Mangonui Cruising Club which is a magic spot. Their team of volunteers worked tirelessly transporting sailors to and from boats so they could enjoy a fantastic meal at the club. In Wellington at the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club, Katie and her team kindly took some of our shore crew out to the heads to escort High Voltage in to port and showed us a great time at their fabulous bar. The Napier Sailing Club was another great stopover with many of the locals hauling out to make space for the visiting boats in the marina, and John the haulout manager was super helpful – even driving Victoria to the local chandleries to pick up the bits we needed for the propeller.
We even had fantastic service at our non-scheduled stop in at Opua Marina. Even though it was a Sunday the super professional team there were able to arrange an emergency haulout and with boat builders also on hand, High Voltage was back in the water after just a couple of hours and ready to race again.
A huge amount of preparation went in to getting the boat ready to race. Special thanks to Matt Stechmann and the team at Hurricane Rigging who did a huge amount of work on the boat and also Matt’s coaching of Vic & Emily was much appreciated.
Thanks to Vic & Emily’s work places Telfer Young and Hurricane Rigging for their support and allowing them take time off to do the race.
Vic & Emily’s families have also been really supportive of the girls. It was great to have them in Wellington with bottles of Champagne when the girls arrived. We were also very lucky that Vic’s partner Johnny decided to come up on the day of departure as his diving skills came in very handy when one of the propeller blades fell off just before the start.
Thanks to Dave junior for being there to help Vic & Emily when they arrived in Auckland, Danielle for her pics as they were sailing in the harbour, Jenny & Shadow for coming to wave the girls off, to Sonya, Kelly & the kids for coming to watch the start, to the fabulous team at the Mangonui Motel for doing all our washing, to Zara and Phil for coming to lend a hand in Opua, Sandra for coming for a drink with us in Wellington, Aaron for letting Juliet come away with us on a crazy trip, Isla for lending us her bears as mascots, Jason for letting Juliet and I stay on the fabulous Velela, Meg for feeding us in Napier, Jo for changing her work commitments to be there for the girls at the finish, and to my lovely Mumma for taking care of Seth for me while I’ve been away.
High Voltage wouldn’t have been able to race without the help of our amazing shore crew. There is another blog post specifically about them to come. I’m pretty sure we had the biggest team chasing the girls around including my lovely Executive Assistant Naomi Wilde, Camilla Gibbons who also spent a lot of time training with the girls before their auto helm was installed, Craig Edwards, Willie & Vonda Newman, Nicci Blain & Juliet Abbott. Thanks also to Dave and Brent who have volunteered to help sail High Voltage home.
As for me, I was pretty disappointed when I had to pull out of doing the race with Vic this time a year ago, but we were so lucky that Emily was keen and available to step in to take my place. I can honestly say I have probably enjoyed being chief shore crew and supporting the girls even more than doing the hard yards out there day and night doing all the sailing.
Vic & Emily – I think these girls are incredible. Despite the drama along the way, the crazy weather and no doubt being absolutely knackered, they’ve both come ashore with huge smiles on their faces, and have been keen to get back out to the start line again after every stop. I think they are incredibly brave and they have no doubt learned so much about both the boat, the weather, navigation and of course themselves on this journey. I salute you!
Finally I’d like to thank all our followers on Facebook and Instagram. Your kind comments and messages of support have really helped encourage us all along on this wild journey. Someone even told me that they felt like they were on board racing along too – which hopefully means we’ve been telling the story as best we can!
No doubt Vic & Emily will have some thoughts of their own on what worked and what didn’t. I’ll be sure to update you when they get home and try to digest their achievement!
Here are our other posts on the RNI
RNI 2020 – The Shore Crew – Post to come