Some of the biggest and fastest sailing yachts in the world will battle for glory next month when superyachts from around the world compete on the Hauraki Gulf in the Millennium Cup 2003.
The superyacht regatta, February 10-13, will set the stage for racing for the America's Cup which starts two days later on the 15th.
"The highly successful inaugural event sailed in Auckland three years ago at the dawning of the new millennium, was a wonderful counterpoint to the Louis Vuitton Cup and the America's Cup,"
said Lane Finley, event organizer and Executive Director of Marex. "This event will continue to take place every two-three years as a way of thanking the superyachts for visiting New Zealand."
The four-day rendezvous for both sail and motor yachts has attracted an eclectic mix of luxury vessels from international ports as diverse as Hong Kong and Antigua, Halifax and Guernsey, Boston and Monaco. Auckland and Sydney are both well represented.
With 40 superyachts already entered and entries coming in every day, Finley is confident that this year's field will be bigger than the billion dollar fleet of 55 vessels that contested the first Cup. Of the early entries, 16 are vessels that competed three years ago.
The highlight of the week will be a gala dinner for skippers and their guests at Mansion House on Kawau Island where the fleet will anchor overnight. The race to Kawau will feature four division starts in Auckland's inner harbour off Devonport Wharf.
Staged as a showcase for New Zealand's world-class marine industry and to raise the country's profile as a cruising destination, the Millennium Cup will fittingly feature a strong cross-section of yachts built and outfitted by local yards.
"New Zealand's diverse coastal attractions and a competitive marine industry have made our country a favorite summer destination for knowledgeable cruisers wishing to avoid the cyclone season in the Pacific,"
Finley said. "With prestigious events like the Millennium Cup, we are attracting more of the superyacht fleet to the South Pacific."
Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive George Hickton says the Millennium Cup is a perfect event to showcase what New Zealand had to offer. "Racing in the stunning environment of the Hauraki Gulf, shows the versatility of New Zealand to a very influential group of visitors. It is also a wonderful opportunity for these visitors to sample our wine and cuisine."
The biggest and fastest sailing yachts in the Millennium Cup will be battling for first to finish honors in two round the buoys events and the passage race to Kawau Island, followed by a second race back to Auckland. Smaller and older craft will have their chance to win under the IRC handicap system, a formula that takes into account the speed-producing features and potential of widely diverse designs.
Powered craft will pit the skills of their skippers and navigators against each other in predicted log competitions, in which boats transit the day's course in a set time without the benefit of time pieces or instruments, using only a compass for direction and engine revolutions to estimate speed.