The race is owned by the New Zealand Multihull Yacht Club and organised by Pants Events, and has attracted a number of giant catamarans: veteran local campaigners X-Factor, Sundreamer are anticipating that the Noumean entry Rongtudjuu will give them a run for their money. Rongtudjuu won the race in 2003, and has since had an eight month refit. 'We expect to have reduced the weight by 5 to 8%,' says owner Philippe COSTE, although the last time he met X-Factor on the water, she was freshly launched and with the benefit of two year's racing, the big yellow boat is his major concern.
An unknown factor in the multihull division is Murray ROSS's 16.5m vessel Isis, The boat, which is designed primarily for charter cruising, has never before been raced. Joining ROSS for the race is America's Cup personality Dennis CONNOR (USA). CONNOR is flying to New Zealand specifically to join ROSS in the race.
Brian CARTER of the New Zealand Multihull Yacht Club says that at the back of all the multihull sailor's minds will be the fact that last year, in light and shifty conditions, a keelboat beat them home, and that same keelboat is returning to the start this year.
'She is no ordinary keelboat: Konica Minolta is the 30m supermaxi, owned by Stewart THWAITES, who achieved overall line honours in last year's race, and set a new Auckland to Suva race record this winter,' says CARTER.
Size wise Konica Minolta is a big step up from the next in line in her division: there are a dozen boats in the 50-60 foot category, including two new additions to the race fleet: the Transpac 52 Victory 5 (V5), which will be optimized in southerly conditions, and the brand new Cookson 50, Pussy Galore, owned by Anatole MASFEN, both of which race under the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron banner.
Of interest in Division Two will be the battle between the lightweight Ross designed boat Blackout, the Mount Gay 30 Fun n Games, and the 9.7m Drinks Trolley, which has a very successful HSBC Coastal Classic track record. All of these boats will require reaching or running conditions to really light up, but Fun n Games, which is water ballasted, will have an edge if weight is important.
Division Three has attracted 13 Farr 1020s, and nine Stewart 34s, which weighing in at approximately five tonnes, will compete against the likes of the smaller and lighter performance keelboats such as Junkyard Dog, What's News and RnB. It is noteworthy that such a big number of Stewart 34s are racing this year, and indicative of the class's renewal in recent years.
There are eleven Young 88 keelboats entered in Division Four, while the Fifth Division includes our smallest boats, such as Nimbus II, a 6.99m sloop owned by Richard RAEA.
Additionally, there are twelve boats raced by crews of just two people, facing an endurance test all the way to Russell.
Telecom's T3G Mobile Broadband data cards will bring the HSBC Coastal Classic to life for friends and family of competitors. The cards will allow the official photographer to download photos to the race website as they're taken, so land-based spectators can watch the action unfold as it happens.
The same T3G technology will be used on the committee boat to download race statistics in real-time, meaning the race results will be available on the official website, www.coastalclassic.co.nz almost as soon as the yachts cross the finish line.
Sponsor organisation HSBC, which involves its staff and team members in yachting activities as the Race approaches, wishes teams and supporters all the best on the race course. 'HSBC is thrilled to again be part of the continuing spirit of the HSBC Coastal Classic. We wish all the crews a safe and competitive race,' says the CEO of HSBC New Zealand, Norman WILSON.
Major sponsors include HSBC, Sunday Star-Times, Mount Gay Rum, Steinlager, Masport, Loaded Hog, CRC, Russell Cottages, Trade-A-Boat, Dubarry, Line 7, SailNZ and Quantum Sails. The current race record is 7 hours, 20 minutes and 51 seconds, set by Split Enz in 1996. The prize pool is worth $40,000.