26 February 2013

2013 Three Kings Race

The 2013 Three Kings Race was hosted by the Royal Akarana Yacht Club and got underway last Thursday morning (21 February). In contrast to the conditions in Wellington for the IRC/PHRF Nationals, the north of the country was in the grip of a high pressure weather system that resulted in light airs for much the duration of this epic 500 mile race, and made for slow going for all of the competitors, with the last yacht finishing on Monday evening.

A light airs start - Pacific Sundance leads Promise (Stewart 34) and Expedition Coppelia (Farr 38) (photo Suellen Hurling)

The Three Kings Islands
The Three Kings are a group of 13 small islands located 34 miles off the northern tip of New Zealand (also known as the Manawa Islands).  The course is simple - from Orakei Wharf in Auckland, rounding the islands to port, and back to Orakei Wharf. The race has its origins in the 1970s, where it was used as part of the trials to select New Zealand's team for the 1975 Admiral's Cup team, and later in 1976 as part of the Dunhill Cup series, where it was won by a then new Anticipation, followed by US yacht Ballyhoo and the overall series winner, the Farr One Tonner Jiminy Cricket. Back then the race was slightly more complicated, and longer, taking in roundings of Channel Island and Great Barrier Island. Ballyhoo was the line honours winner, taking 67 hours to complete the 560 mile course.

Team Vodafone Sailing and 888 at the start (photo Suellen Hurling)
Despite the generally light conditions, Team Vodafone Sailing finished the 2013 edition of the race in 43 hours, finishing well ahead of the second multihull 888

The first of the small fleet of monohulls began their final approach to Auckland late on Sunday night, led by Outrageous Fortune whose crew were beginning to contemplate whether to start the motor so that they could make it to work on Monday. Patience was no doubt starting to wear thin on all the boats going into a fourth night at sea. However, the lights of Truxton could be seen bringing down some new breeze and the crew of Outrageous Fortune leapt into action and a few hours later they crossed the line (at 03:36), just 20 minutes ahead of Truxton (and IRC honours). 

But none of the monohull fleet were able to save their time on PHRF on the Townson 32 Wandering Star, sailed by Gareth Wells, which arrived home at 17:04 to take overall victory for the race. This was a great effort by Wells and his crew in a mixed fleet of mostly bigger boats, and perhaps one of the more notable victories by a Townson 32 in an offshore classic since Peter Mulgrew's Moonlight famously won the medium distance ocean race in the 1971 One Ton Cup trials. The crew reported that conditions ranged from light air conditions that were torturous at times, to 40 knots past North Cape and difficult sea conditions.

Wandering Star - Three Kings winner 2013 (photo Suellen Hurling)
The Farr One Tonner Pacific Sundance didn't find the light airs to her liking, finishing fifth on line and sixth on PHRF (photo Suellen Hurling)
The race was a challenging one for all the crews, and took much longer than many would have anticipated. However, it is good to see this race back on the racing calendar after a hiatus of some 37 years, and hopefully it will remain as a permanent fixture and attract a bigger fleet next time.

For the results and more photos see the Royal Akarana Yacht Club website: http://rayc.co.nz/three-kings/

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