North Sails LOFT NEWS

February 26, 2019

EXCITING TIMES AHEAD

Five yachts enjoyed close racing throughout the three-day regatta in the Bay of Islands at this year’s Millennium Cup.

📸 Jeff Brown / Breed Media

This year’s Millennium Cup superyacht regatta was just a taste of what is to come in the next few years, as momentum builds towards the 2021 America’s Cup in Auckland.

Five yachts, including stalwarts Tawera and Silvertip, enjoyed close racing throughout the three-day regatta, but they could be joined by more than 25 others as numbers grow over the next two years.

All five yachts competing this year had sails by North, and many had North Sails experts aboard. Coming out on top after five races was the Ron Holland design Tawera, which also won the event in 2016 and 2017, skippered by Mike Mahoney and with Chris Dickson as tactician. This year her main competition was provided by Swan 90 Freya, a first-time entrant in the Millennium Cup. Also competing were Silvertip, with veteran Kiwi sailors Tom Dodson and Tom Schnackenberg calling the tactics and navigating, Thalia and Sassafrass, which unfortunately had to withdraw after the first day with gear damage.

📸 Jeff Brown / Breed Media

North Sails Auckland superyacht specialist Matt Smeaton says exciting times lie ahead for the regatta and for the superyacht industry, as owners start planning a visit to New Zealand to tie in with the America’s Cup regatta and its lead-up. This was the first year the event had been run using the ORC superyacht handicapping system, to bring the regatta in line with international regattas.

“ORC is a great thing for the event,” says Smeaton. “A team of handicappers came to New Zealand from Italy and sailed a race on each of the boats, to make sure the ratings were accurate, as most of the yachts competing here haven’t raced under the rule before.”

Smeaton says ORC is “really going to grow the regatta”, hopefully even beyond the size it was during the 2000 America’s Cup, when 36 boats competed in the event. A motor yacht division is also going to be added.

This was also the first year the regatta was held separate from Bay of Islands Sailing Week, giving race organisers more scope to lay courses around the islands of the bay and in differing wind directions. Veteran race officer Harold Bennett was at the helm of the race committee, and on shore “the voice of New Zealand yachting”, Pete Montgomery, took on MC duties for the social events, based at Russell’s historic Duke of Marlborough hotel.

Unlike during the 2000 and 2003 America’s Cups, when the Millennium Cup event was held in Auckland, future regattas will stay based in the Bay of Islands, giving visiting owners and crews the chance to enjoy one of the world’s most beautiful sailing grounds. Smeaton says he and the North Sails team plan to work closely with superyacht owners and crews over the coming years to ensure they are getting high-quality service.

“We are already looking at the boats that are going to follow on from this and come next year,” he says. “We are expecting to start seeing more people come down next season, so there will probably be double the number of boats at the Millennium Cup next year. We are really looking forward to seeing these boats coming down into the Pacific, and are going to look after them as best we can.”

📸 Jeff Brown / Breed Media