News SSANZ Round the North Island 2014 Race Report

11 Mar 2014

In the recent SSANZ Round the North Island Race 2014, the Doyle Sails NZ team was well represented. Chris McMaster, Managing Director of Doyle Sails NZ, was racing on his boat Laissez Faire II with Rick Hackett of KZ Marine, while Andy Pilcher joined AJ Reid on Django. After two weeks after racing, Laissez Faire II came away with 1st place PHRF overall corrected time, 1st place IRC overall corrected time, 1st place IRC overall, and 1st place overall Division 2 PHRF, with Django taking 2nd place overall Division 2 PHRF.Both boats are fully powered by Doyle Stratis. Laissez Faire II features a full Stratis ICE inventory (including the first ICE mainsails and AP genoas made by the loft,) that had already seen over 6000nm prior to the start of the RNI race.

laissez faire ii

Laissez Faire II

We twisted Andy Pilcher's arm and he has written a full race report from on board Django and it makes for great reading. 

SSANZ Round North Island 2-Handed Race 2014 - Django Race Report

In February this year, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to join Andrew Reid on his J/111 Django for the Round North Island 2-Handed Race, organized by the Short Handed Sailing Association of NZ (SSANZ).

I had never done this race before, however it had been on my radar for a while. Therefore when Andrew purchased the J/111 and suggested that we do the race, it was a perfect opportunity, because I knew that Andrew and I would sail well together and Django would be a great boat for this race.


Here follows a leg by leg account of our race:

Leg 1: Auckland – Mangonui, 154nm

1 Off the Start Line

off the start line

The race started on Saturday 8th February in a nice S/W Breeze. We had a good start off Devonport Wharf and hoisted the A3 Gennaker for the short leg to North Head, where we were one of the first boats in the fleet to get around and start heading North.

The rest of that day was a nice reach up the coast, swapping between the A3 and Fractional Zero as the wind fluctuated in strength and/or direction.

We were still looking good on the fleet as we went passed Cape Brett later than night, however from then on the wind was too far forward for our liking, and the bigger, heavier boats relished in the two-sail reaching conditions and put too much time on us before the finish, where we ended up 5th in Division 2 on PHRF.

After a short 24 hour stop in the picturesque Mangonui Harbour, we were off again on the longest leg of the race, up around the top of the North Island and all the way down the West Coast to Wellington.

2 Mangonui Cruising Club

Mangonui Cruising Club

Leg 2: Mangonui – Wellington, 518nm

The wind was almost non-existent at start time, so the Race Officer postponed us for half an hour and went further out into the Bay, looking for more wind.

Eventually a sea breeze slowly filled in and we headed off towards North Cape. However after a few hours of pleasant – albeit not very exciting – sailing, we had a bizarre situation of the new gradient wind meeting the old sea breeze head on. This literally created a line in the water, where two boats barely 20 metres apart would be sailing in the same direction on opposite tacks. Sure enough, the gradient breeze won out, and the boats that tacked early made nice gains, while the others who carried on towards the shore ended up sailing a lot more distance.

On Django, we got out of the transition very well and had a nice Code Zero reach up the coast, where we went around North Cape just ahead of Truxton and Marshall Law, and started heading West, just as the sun was going down behind Cape Reinga.

5 Sunset at Cape Reinga

Sunset at Cape Reinga

Once around Cape Reinga, we were hard on the wind into a 20+ knot Southerly, which while not exactly boat breaking conditions, was not particularly comfortable on a 36’ boat, especially in the short, choppy seas.

The wind was forecast to start swinging around to the S/W, then West and eventually N/W, so after about 6 hours we tacked onto Starboard and got (relatively) comfortable for the long leg down the West Coast. 

Once the breeze starting lifting, we had a fairly easy leg down the coast, changing between the Jib and the Code Zero until we reached Cape Egmont late on the second day, where the wind lifted and built even more. From there we had the best ride of the whole race, with the A3 Gennaker up, enabling us to charge down towards Cook Strait, right on the edge of control. Unfortunately this was in the middle of the night, so we weren’t able to get any decent video footage, but we had some great fun for a few hours. Gradually the breeze increased again, so we changed down to the Fractional Code Zero, which meant we could hold course more easily, at more consistent speeds.

By dawn we were in sight of Cape Terawhiti, which marked the entrance to the notorious Cook Strait, however by mid morning the breeze was rapidly dying out, not increasing, so we changed back to the A3 Gennaker, then down to the A1 for what became a light airs VMG Run into Cook Strait.

As the morning wore on, we were very pleasantly surprised to see a number of boats that had been in front of us previously had parked up hours earlier and were very graciously sitting there waiting for us to catch up.

We managed to sneak inside Laissez Faire II, Marshall Law and Truxton, with Wedgetail less than a mile ahead.

Not only was Cook Strait unusually quiet, but we also had the good fortune to arrive right on the change of tide, so we got a huge amount of assistance on our way towards the finish.

As we passed Karori Rock, we were doing 7.5kn boatspeed but nearly 13kn over the ground! There followed an amazing finish, as we beat in to Wellington Harbour crossing tacks with Truxton & Marshall Law, the same two boats that we went around North Cape with, some 500 miles earlier. At the finish, we had five boats – Wedgetail, Django, Truxton, Marshall Law and Laissez Faire II – all crossing the line within 10 minutes of each other.

That ended an epic leg for us and we were delighted to take the win on PHRF in Div 2, before enjoying some of Wellington’s legendary hospitality.

8 Wellington Prizegiving

Wellington prize giving

Leg 3 – Wellington to Napier, 205nm

Wellington proved to be an awesome stopover, and by the time we’d been there for three days, we were ready for the next leg to start so we could have a rest!!

The weather had been awesome during the stopover and was still surprisingly light & calm for our restart on the leg to Napier.

9 Leaving Wellington

Leaving Wellington

The narrative below is an update that I wrote on my Facebook page after the finish.

That has to have been the longest 200 miles in my life. Finished about an hour ago, for an elapsed time of just over two days. 
After a "not as advertised" start to the leg, the rest of the race seemed to follow the brochure. 
By the time we reached the Heads out of Wellington Harbour, we were right in with the leading bunch. 
We had a nice A1 and Code Zero reach across to Cape Palliser, and soon after the wind went to the North East and started to build. 
From then on it seemed that wherever we went, the wind was coming from the exact direction we wanted to go. 
It was as though someone had hidden The Holy Grail at Cape Kidnappers, and that we'd never get there. 
We had 25, gusting 30 knots, which was never going to suit us, but on midday on day 2, we got cell phone coverage, so we looked at the tracker and were surprised to see that we were still right in with the lead boats on the water. 
The wind got lighter later in the race, and we lost a couple more Boats after that, but ultimately happy to finish 7th over the line and probably 3rd in Division on handicap. 
Time for a beer and a lie down. 
Django out.

Napier was yet another fantastic stopover with amazing hospitality, including a very pleasant wine tour of the Hawke’s Bay.

Two days in Napier and we were ready for the final leg up towards East Cape, across the Bay of Plenty, then back in to Auckland for the finish.

Leg 4 – Napier to Auckland, 367nm

As with the restarts for the previous two legs, the start for Leg 4 was very light and we sat around again waiting for the wind to fill in. Eventually a sea breeze arrived and we headed off for the final leg towards Auckland. 

13 The Finish LineThe Finish Line

Here’s the Facebook update I wrote once we got home.

Well, that was epic, in every sense of the word. 
The final leg was, well, pretty shitty for the most part. 
If I said that Leg 3 was the longest 200 miles I'd ever done, then Leg 4 was the longest 360 miles I've ever done. 
I honestly think that you could not have designed a race to be more upwind, especially given the number of corners we turned, only to find the wind had bent around the corner just before we arrived there! 
To summarise, we left Napier heading E/NE to get out of the Hawkes Bay. Then veered left to head N/E towards East Cape. 
From there, another left turn to head across the Bay of Plenty towards Cape Colville, bearing N/W, before the final left turn heading S/W into a 35 - 40kn wind against tide maelstrom, for the "dash" back into Auckland. 
Sure enough, there to greet us at every turn was a windshift with our name on it, saying "Hey lads, welcome to the corner, your next leg will be upwind". 
It was not entirely unexpected however. The weather people had been predicting this type of Leg well in advance, just as they'd predicted Leg 3 would be entirely upwind. 
Why is it that the shit weather forecasts are always the most accurate?? 
Anyway, as with the previous leg, we surprised ourselves with a better than expected performance, and were delighted with our finish this morning. 
I need a bit of time to get my head around it, but am rapt to have been able to do this race, which was a real adventure, and just worth it to have simply completed a circumnavigation of the North Island and see this incredible country of ours from a unique angle. 
Hats off to Mr AJ Reid for his impeccable preparation of the boat, where we sailed over 1200 miles and didn't break so much as a shackle. 
It's been a pleasure and a privilege. 
For the final time - on this journey anyway - "Django Out"


Now I’ve had a couple of weeks to recover and get my head around the race, I am really proud of what we achieved.

Simply finishing the race was an accomplishment and as I mentioned above, the effort and preparation that Andrew put into the boat was inspiring.

We ended up second overall on PHRF in Division 2, behind Chris McMaster & Rick Hackett on the First 47.7 Laissez Faire II. Chris is the Managing Director at Doyle NZ, and my boss, so it’s probably only fair that we let them win....

As far as the sails are concerned, the race was a great proving ground for our gear and I was delighted that everything performed perfectly and we did not have one failure throughout the whole race.

We fitted a new Stratis Carbon ICE Mainsail just days before the race started, and given that so much of the race was upwind, it spent a significant amount of time reefed. Traditionally this is not good for the shape of Mainsails, as they are subjected to a lot of “off-axis” loads that they’re not originally designed for. However the fibre alignment of the Stratis sails means that even after spending so much time with one, or even two reefs, the sail shape remains perfect after almost 1,500 miles.

Also, the other new sail we put on the boat just before the start was the Fractional Code Zero, which filled a large gap in the inventory for Reaching in medium to strong winds.

This is set on a Profurl Unit, about 1/3 of the way along the prod, so it was easy to deploy and retrieve, which meant we didn’t hesitate to use it if conditions allowed.

It also proved to be a great “transition” sail, so if we needed to change down from a Gennaker to a Jib, we could easily unfurl the Zero and drop the kite behind that sail which offered a better “wind shadow” so we could control the drop of the Gennaker.

Finally, my unconditional thanks and respect to Mr Andrew Reid, who was the perfect partner to do this race with.

Our sailing skills complimented each other perfectly and it was a relief to know that I could go down off watch and rest safe in the knowledge that the boat was in good hands.

Just as important, if not more so, was the fact that we got along so well and enjoyed every  moment of the race – even the ones where we were beating into 35+ knots with a Heavy Weather Jib and a Double Reefed Mainsail!

Not a cross word was spoken throughout the entire two weeks of the race, and that made the whole race that much more enjoyable.

Next adventure? Auckland to Fiji Race in June. Although we’ll take a few more people with us this time!