Honk ‘n’ Jack weaves through the traffic. Photo: Supplied.

Yachts flock to Waikawa regatta

Despite Covid-19 limitations, the Waikawa Boating Club’s annual women’s regatta, sponsored by Mud House Wines, boasted the largest fleet in the event’s history.

The waters of Queen Charlotte Sound saw over 170 sailors on 24 boats compete in two divisions.

Saturday saw the fleet take on two ‘long harbour’ courses, a dying southerly offering conditions that favoured those with local knowledge as boats picked their way from breeze line to breeze line and significant gains and losses were made. With many of the fleet aboard their boats for the first time, the learning curve was steep. Race two took place in a gently-building norwester, allowing visitors another look at the challenges of Sounds sailing. After the learning session of the morning, boat handling and trimming stepped up considerably as the boats were driven harder and the chance came to explore sail wardrobes.

A highlight of Saturday evening’s regatta dinner was a chance to hear from four Kiwi ‘Maidens’ (women who have sailed as part of the Maiden crew) – Jo Lowrey, Sharon Ferris Choat, Jo Ivory and Tash Fickling. The Maiden experience continued at Sunday breakfast with a Zoom linkup with Tracy Edwards MBE, the driving force behind the Maiden campaign.

Sunday’s buoy racing got off to a slow start as the forecast breeze built.

Some great sail handling and tactical sailing kept margins close and the committee boat busy recording some very tight finishes.

Evidence of the close competition came at prize giving with both divisions decided on countback after the top boats finished tied together on points. In division 2 local skipper Adrienne Crossen brought Sequin home for the win, the Jeanneau 36 beating out Farr 727 Freaky, skippered by Mandy Carpenter, on countback with Young 780 D’Edge, in the hands of Felicity Loncar, two points back in third.

Division 1 saw some huge gains, Jo Lowrey coming to terms with Khamsin to win the final race after three mid-field finishes, the big Beneteau First 456 showing a good turn of pace once the breeze built. In the final analysis the well-performed Farr 30 Loco, in the hands of top centreboard sailor Emily Overend, took the division on countback from Amnesty, the Wellington-based Farr 11.6 guided around the course by Ingrid Harder. After winning division 2 in 2019 on her Young 88 Abracadabra, skipper Karen Selway stepped up to division 1, helming the Ross 12 Revs to a consistent set of results enabling her to sneak in a point ahead of line honours winner Satellite Spy, the Ross 40 performing well with Carla Dixon as skipper for the third consecutive year.

Worthy of note was the performance of the RNZYS Youth Training Programme crew. With no previous trapezing experience the team rose to the challenge aboard the Thompson 750 Honk ‘n’ Jack. A series of mid-field results and some tight duels with boats around them saw the team go home with great smiles and a good deal of experience gathered on the race track.

With dates already set for 2021 (September 18-19) crews are already booking accommodation and flights for what is becoming one of the ‘must-do’ events on the sailing calendar.

Jo Ivory is relishing her time with the NZ Sailing Trust. Photo: Supplied.

Sailing away with the legends

Jo Ivory is living her sailing dream and she’s keen to share it.

The vastly-experienced skipper, who was raised in Marlborough and learned her sailing skills in the top of the south, currently helms iconic Kiwi round the world yachts Steinlager 2 and Lion New Zealand for the NZ Sailing Trust, based in Auckland.

The charitable trust, which was inspired by the adventures of Sir Peter Blake and his racing teams, ensures that key yachts from the nation’s rich sailing history are preserved and provide sailing adventures for future generations.

Jo is a big part of their plans, the only female skipper employed by the trust, taking groups of youngsters out in the famous vessels, teaching them sailing, navigation and life skills in six-day trips.

Steinlager 2, one of the most famous yachts in NZ sailing history.
Steinlager 2, one of the most famous yachts in NZ sailing history.

Although she is pinching herself at being given the opportunity to take charge of such wonderful yachts, she has compiled an extensive sailing CV over more than 30 years at sea and jumped at the job when offered.

Fate also played a big hand in her recruitment by the trust.

After travelling the world since 2014, Jo was based in the Caribbean in late 2017 when Hurricane Irma struck, “annihilating” her sailing base in the British Virgin Islands. With her immediate prospects of resuming work in the Caribbean scuttled, she followed some friends’ advice and applied for a skipper’s role with the trust.

“I never thought that I would ever be considered,” said Jo, “but I fired my CV off and they came back immediately and wanted to know when I could start.

“So one door had slammed shut [with the hurricane] and another immediately opened up with the trust.”

Jo Ivory is relishing her time with the NZ Sailing Trust. Photo: Supplied.
Jo Ivory is relishing her time with the NZ Sailing Trust. Photo: Supplied.

Her early introduction to the new job did not go entirely to plan. The idea was for Jo to do one week on Steinlager 2, then have a week off followed by a week on Lion NZ. However Lion NZ was undergoing a $1.6 million refit and when funding fell short the trust were down to one boat for a year.

Unable to exist in Auckland on part-time wages, Jo seized the opportunity to deliver a yacht from Tenerife to the Mediterranean, then worked in the Greek Islands until March 2019, when Lion NZ went back in the water.

Her dramas did not end there though. Two days after returning to NZ she fell over in the backyard and broke her arm, meaning it was three more months before she was able to take up her current role.

Along the way Jo found time to hop onto another iconic yacht, helping legendary skipper Tracy Edwards sail Maiden, famous for carrying the first all-female crew to complete the Whitbread round the world race in 1989-90, up to Hawaii.

Now Jo is fully focussed on her work with the trust and thrilled by the opportunity to get behind the wheels of such illustrious craft.

“I can’t believe it … they are amazing boats, absolutely amazing.

“Because Lion has had $1.6m put into her, she is just the crème de la crème, but Steinlager is the one that really gets your heart and rips it out.

“When you have got fingertip control, guiding that big red beast and she is just thundering along … she has got legs and just gets up and runs.”

Jo is fully aware she steps into some mighty big shoes in the cockpit of both boats.

“I’m blown away … I can’t believe that this little lady from Blenheim, in her 50s, is doing this.

“When I first took Lion out I had to try and pretend it was Caro-Vita [a 53 foot yacht she ran for 10 years out of Picton] not this most iconic yacht that I was in charge of.

“It’s a lot of fun. I can’t believe I am getting paid to do it.”

The trust runs several different ventures, such as corporate charters, to bring funds into their coffers. However the COVID-19 lockdown has hit them in the pocket, losing a steady stream of bookings through March to July.

“We have taken a huge [financial] knock,” explained Jo.

However, she is quick to point out that their main focus is youth training, an area in which she feels the trust have barely scratched the surface.

“I would love to have Marlborough kids here, “she suggested. “We tapped into Auckland and we have started to tap into Northland and the Bay of Plenty, but we have the rest of NZ … there is so much of the country untapped.

“These kids will love it. They will never forget it … it’s over and beyond,” Jo added.

The trust can be contacted through their web page, https://www.nzsailingtrust.com while those keep to help the cause can go to the following link http://passthebucket.gofundraise.co.nz

Nick Gardiner, left, and Ben Beasley on board Moving Violation. Photo: Supplied.

Youngest crew, smallest boat … no worries for Nick and Ben

Marlborough sailor Nick Gardiner has never been one to shirk a challenge.

However, in two days’ time the 21-year-old will tackle what shapes as the toughest proposition of his sporting career so far, when he and fellow youngster Ben Beasley line up at the start of the gruelling 2020 Short Handed Sailing Association Round North Island Yacht Race.

The duo are the youngest competitors in the race and will crew the smallest boat in the fleet. Their yacht, Moving Violation, is an Elliott 7.9 designed by Greg Elliott. At just 7.0m on the waterline Beasley and Gardiner will have plenty of work to do to keep Moving Violation at the front of the pack in what will be a diverse division.

The RNI, which covers around 1271 nautical miles, is New Zealand’s most iconic yachting challenge and the 2020 edition will feature 38 yachts, ranging from Gardiner and Beasley’s 28-foooter to 52-foot craft. This is 13th edition of the race, 43 years after the inaugural event was first planned by Sir Peter Blake and Martin Foster.

The race starts in Auckland with the first leg to Mangonui in the far north, leg two is from Mangonui to Wellington, the third leg is from Wellington to Napier and the final stage is from Napier returning to Auckland. The race is expected to take around two weeks to complete.

Making it to the start line of this epic race is a challenge in itself. Each yacht must have a Category 2 Safety Certificate issued by Yachting NZ and have completed a 250 Nautical Mile qualifying passage with both co-skippers on board. The co-skippers must both also complete Advanced First Aid training, Advanced Sea Survival qualifications and provide a medical certificate deeming them fit to compete.

The youngsters have followed similar path to the RNI.

Gardiner began with Learn to Sail classes at the Queen Charlotte Yacht Club and progressed through the grades, he and fellow Marlburian Nick Williams winning the Marlborough Sports Awards Team of the Year in 2016 after taking out an international regatta in California.

Beasley, who owns Moving Violation, began sailing aged nine and moved quickly through the youth classes, competing in national and international regattas.

Both Beasley and Gardiner have crewed on keelboats competing in harbour races and regattas including class nationals and Coastal Classics. Together they have competed in events such as the ANZAC 250 and last year completed the Coastal Classic two-handed as part of qualifying for the RNI.

They both work in sailing-related industries – Ben is a trainee spar maker and Nick a trainee sailmaker. Evolution Sails is supporting them for the race.

When asked what appealed most about the forthcoming challenge, Gardiner was to the point.

“The adventure.

“My favourite point of sail is broad reaching, because it’s fast. The thing I like most about Moving Violation is the fact it is so easy to manage. Also a highlight will be seeing different parts of the country at dawn, I’m looking forward to that.

“Our biggest supporters have been our parents – Dad is doing all he can from Marlborough while Ben’s family have been fantastic.”

Odyssey V, skippered by Garry Coleman and Nigel Siburn, have the privilege of being the oldest combined crew in the 2020 RNI with a combined age of 138, and are impressed by what Beasley and Gardiner are undertaking.

“We wish Ben and Nick all the best for the race and look forward to seeing them off our stern all the way around the North Island, – just follow us lads, us old chaps can show you the way – and then make sure you do the race again and again until you’re our age!”

Beasley and Gardner have a dual purpose during their time on the water, they are using the challenge to raise awareness and funds for the charity Lifeline. The charity receives no Government funding and yet fields a staggering 10,000 calls a month offering a listening ear to people in dark places. It costs $750 to train one helpline volunteer, and, to date, the young men have raised enough money for one and a bit volunteer(s), but they would like to raise enough to train two or more people.

The cause hits close to home. They both have personal stories of friends and family suffering depression and mental illness.

Beasley said, “NZ has a very high suicide rate and personally I have known people with depression who have taken their own lives. With Lifeline there is always a person on the phone that you can talk to confidentially and I think it’s important people are aware of this”.

Nick and Ben’s Lifeline fundraising page is https://give.everydayhero.com/nz/sailing-for-lifeline-1

They also have a Facebook page where you can follow their progress https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Amateur-Sports-Team/MV-Sailing-Elliott-79-280347112506534/.


Zephyrs rule the waves in Picton

Queen Charlotte Yacht Club sailors who attended club day earlier this month found 50 Zephyrs parked on Shelley Beach.

No, not the iconic Ford-designed motorcar – these were distinctive single-sailor yachts set to take part in the Zephyr Nationals.

Saturday in Picton was all about last-minute tweaks and getting the boats weighed and measured, then some of the visiting sailors joined the local fleet racing in the afternoon.

On Sunday, the Zephyr fleet headed out to the outer harbour racing area where the first race got underway in a 17-20 knots north westerly wind. The trying conditions resulting in quite a few capsizes and a few breakages, however three races were sailed with the wind dropping a little over the last two events. On Monday the weather made for a great racing day with three races running smoothly, however on Tuesday, with the storm raging all over the country, racing was abandoned.

Several sailors took the opportunity of the down time to explore Marlborough on an arranged wine tour while the day was completed with a sit-down dinner for all involved in the not-quite-finished new QCYC clubhouse.

The last day of racing saw competitors manage three more races in dwindling 14 knot winds. With nine races completed the final placings were decided. Overall winner was Greg Wright of Worser Bay, from Tim Snedden of the Royal NZ Yacht Squadron and third-placed Kelcey Gager (Manly Sailing Club).

Next up for the club is the Interislander Optimist champs and Port Marlborough Starling regatta on February 21-23.

The team on Honk n’ Jack work hard to keep the boat on the go. Photo: Karmyn Ingram Photography.

Varied conditions test sailing regatta participants

The Marlborough Sounds delivered a complete set of wind conditions for the Giesen New Year regatta and Friday’s First National invitation race.

Principal Race Officer Viv Butcher delivered a great course for Friday’s invitation race in steady sea breeze of 12-15 knots enabling most crews to display their spinnaker or gennaker handling skills.

In Division 1 Waikawa boat Honk n’ Jack took the race ahead of Loco from Worser Bay Boating Club with Simply Irresistible third.

Division 2 saw Abracadabra, the Young 88 from Naval Point Yacht Club in Christchurch take the win ahead of local Farr 1020 Prime Suspect with Legacy 2, another Naval Point Young 88 third.

In Division 3, local boat Midnight distanced the field to finish first on line and handicap, with fellow Waikawa boats Sequin and Khamsin second and third respectively.

Division 4 saw another Waikawa trifecta with Satu taking the win ahead of Waipunga II and Playwright.

Saturday dawned for the race fleet of 36 with little sign of the forecast nor’westers. After a 90 minute delay racing got underway at midday in eight knots of patchy breeze. From light airs in race one to challenging gusty conditions in race two, the fleet were able to display a wide range of skills.

Sunday brought heavier winds with some concern that racing might be cancelled due to the conditions. However racing got underway with the long harbour divisions headed for Onahau while divisions 1 and 2 took on the challenging conditions on a windward-leeward course near Allports Island. With wind strength consistently in the 20-30 knot range there was certainly no lack of motive power for the fleet, many crews enjoying the exhilaration of high speed spinnaker and gennaker runs.

As wind gusts grew stronger and more unpredictable the call was made to abandon the final race for Divisions 1 and 2, the regatta being decided over five races while Divisions 3 and 4 got their full quota of four races on the long harbour courses.

The Division 1 title went to Simply Irresistible, the Young 11 producing consistent performances to head off the flying Thompson 750 Honk n’ Jack with overall line honours winner Loco placing third.

Division 2 was hotly contested, the title going to Overspray, the Naval Point Yacht Club Elliott 780 taking the line and handicap double ahead of Waikawa Farr 1020 Prime Suspect while Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club boat 88% Proof took third, the best of 4 Young 88’s in the division.

Division 3 went the way of Raconteur, the Waikawa based Hanse 400 continuing a recent run of good form to lead a local trifecta completed by Sequin, the Jenneau 36 taking second on countback ahead of Beneteau 456 Khamsin. Divisional line honours went to Midnight the Davidson 45 compiling a record of three wins and a second.

Division 4 went to Lotus 950 Satu ahead of Settimio, the Raven 26 second on countback ahead of Waipunga II. Line honours in the division went to Playwright  the Wright 10 assembling a perfect record with four wins from four races.

Waikawa spokesperson Duncan Mackenzie said “despite the absence of several well-performed boats committed to the Round North Island race and others due to mechanical issues the regatta was a great success. A wide range of wind conditions gave everyone the opportunity to shine in their preferred conditions and all division winners were worthy title holders. Best of all, we didn’t break any boats or people”.

The regatta was raced on January 10-12.

Laser sailor Jack Bennett from the host club. Photo: Supplied.

Sailing away in Picton

Running the Marlborough/Nelson regional sailing champs was always going to be a big ask for the small, Picton-based, Queen Charlotte Yacht Club but, as always, they delivered.

On December 14-15, QCYC played host to three events – the 2019 Zephyr South Island championships, the 2019 Regional Open Skiff regatta and the 2019 A class South Island championships.

With 90 boats entered and 15 different types of yachts sailing in three different racing courses the pressure was firmly on the club’s volunteer base, who banded together to deliver a great event.

On day one the D flag was raised a little after 10am and all fleets, besides Optimist Rainbow, Green and Open skiff headed out to the outer harbour.

The A course featured Open Optimist, Starling, Splash, Laser, Zephyr, Finn, 420 and Europe class boats, who sailed in light winds (five knots northwesterly) which built throughout the day as three races were completed.

The B course catered for A class, Paper Tiger, Flying Dutchman, 29er, and Weta class boats who competed in 10 knots northwesterly winds, measuring over 15 knots at the end of the day. In the superb conditions spectators were treated to the sight of A-class yachts zooming past on their foils.

Meanwhile, in the inner harbour the junior sailors completed three races.

On Sunday the sailors again split over three courses, the Open skiff heading out with the rest of the fleets while Optimist Rainbow and Green Fleet had the inner harbour for themselves.

The first race started with a light breeze building to 15 knots which built to over 20 knots with gusts up to 30 knots. After race one for course A and race two for course B, further racing was cancelled for the day. There were several capsizes as the boats sailed back to port, but the QCYC safety craft got all sailors safely home.

The Zephyr South Island title was won convincingly by Greg Wright from WBBC while the A class South Island crown was claimed by Dave Shaw from Nelson who won all his races, including lapping some of the other competitors.

The Open Skiff title was taken by William Beg from NPCL, holding off QCYC sailor Fin Stichbury, who placed second.

In the Laser class Jack Bennet took victory over several other QCYC sailors while the Open Class was won by Cameron Doig in his Finn.

The 420 title went to the girls’ team of Eden Amos and Skye Baker while Ben Mangin (NYC) took the Starling crown in front of QCYC member River Hopkins.

In the 29er class the Nelson Team of Jones and Schneider took first place with the QCYC duo of Edwards and Overend second.

The Paper Tiger class saw a clear victory by Nigel Greenbank from QCYC while, in the Flying Dutchman, David Gibb and Craig Pettie were victorious over other Nelson teams.

The Optimist Open grade saw victory by Noah Malpot (NYC) with QCYC sailors Moss Hopkins and Louie Poletti hot on his heels.

The Optimist inner harbour event was won by Emily Preece (Green Fleet) and Harry Pitts (Rainbow Fleet).

QCYC sailor Indio McNab in an open skiff. Photo: Supplied.

Picton’s the place for sailing action

Queen Charlotte Yacht Club sailors, members and volunteers will have their hands full next weekend when the club hosts several championship events across a wide number of boat classes.

On December 14-15, Picton will be the base for four events – the Marlborough Nelson centreboard sailing regionals, the 2019 Zephyr South Island Championships, the Regional Open Skiff Regatta and the A Class South Island Championships.

The two-day regatta will involve over 80 sailors and around 15 boat classes. They include Optimist rainbow (green and open), open skiff, Starling, Splash, Laser radial and full, Finn, Farr 3.7, Paper Tiger, A class, 420, Flying Dutchman and 29er with the possibility of some foiling yachts being in attendance, as entries continue to arrive.

Races will be run on several courses, both in the inner and outer harbours.

The new yacht club building is still under construction but, once that impressive facility is complete, more water-related events are expected to make their way to Picton, starting with the Zephyr nationals in early February 2020 and the ranking Optimist regatta a couple of weeks later.

From left, Flying Fox, Satellite Spy and Global manoeuvre prior to the division one start. Photo: Supplied.

Winners decided in twilight sailing series

Moderate winds and blues skies over Waikawa Bay greeted the 20 boats and their crews who took to the water in the final of the Marlborough Sounds Marinas Spring Twilight Series last week.

With a mathematical chance of taking the Division 3 title, Greg Cornish gave Acamar every chance, the Easterly 30 taking the win ahead of John Oswald’s Lidgard Supertramp with Alex Soper’s Hanse 345 Our Girl only fourteen seconds behind in third place.

In the final standings, Ian Michel took his Wright 10 Playwright to the series win, consistency seeing him finish on 23 points, four clear of Acamar, with Chris Gorman’s Farr 1020 Free Rein dropping to third.

Nine seconds separated first and second in Division 2 in race 10, Bill and Adrienne Crossen taking the win aboard Sequin, the Jenneau 36 beating Freaky, Rob and Mandy Carpenter’s Farr 727, with Richard Coon’s Hanse 400 Raconteur in third. Line honours went to Raconteur from Andrew Wilson’s Farr 1104 Rapport with Terry Allen’s Hanse Imagine It third on line.

As expected, Settimio dominated the final standings, Clive Harragan’s Raven 26 finishing on 16 points, eleven points clear of Sequin, with Raconteur claiming third on countback from Freaky.

Showing that the little guys can mix it with the big boys in Division 1, Clive Ballett’s Farr 1020 Coup D’Etat executed a strong start sequence, pushing Satellite Spy over the line early, requiring a restart from the flying Ross 40. Bob and Jennie Crum’s J120 Bluebird set the early pace despite some “interesting” episodes with their big blue gennaker however Satellite Spy displayed some excellent spinnaker work to take the lead by the end of the first lap. Line honours went to Satellite Spy ahead of Bluebird with series leader Global fighting hard to take third on line. Once handicaps were taken into consideration, Dave Kelway’s Beneteau Khamsin took the win ahead of Global with Bluebird seven seconds back in third place.

Going into the final race of Division 1, Khamsin had to produce a win and hope that Global had a bad race. While the first part of the equation was delivered, Global ensured the title was theirs with their second placing enabling them to drop a fifth placing and finish with a total of 15 points ahead of Khamsin on 19. Despite a broken halyard aboard Flying Fox, Chris Williams held on to third place in the series, one point clear of Bluebird.

Attention now shifts to a racing format new to the Waikawa fleet with circuit racing making its appearance for the first time. In this format boats sail a series of laps of a short course for a set duration. The average lap time for each boat is then calculated and their handicap applied to that average lap time.

Alastair Gifford, left, with the victorious Kiwi crew. Photo: RPAYC.

Gifford skippers NZ crew to victory in Australia

Alastair Gifford, the sailing nominee at the recent Marlborough Sports Awards, underlined his ability at international level with a notable triumph in Australia late last month.

Gifford, who is based in Auckland, skippered a Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) team to victory in the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club’s (RPAYC) Harken International Youth Match Racing Championship near Sydney.

He and his team of Henry Angus, Chester Duffett, Hunter Gardyne and Seb Lardies successfully defending the title won by fellow club member Jordon Stevenson last year.

In the final, Gifford’s crew defeated the world-ranked No. 20 team from Wales, skippered by Matthew Whitfield from Penarth Yacht Club. Gifford pocketed the $1200 winner’s cheque, with $800 going to Wales as runner-up.

Resilience was required. Gifford’s team had to recover from being two down in the final, but the Kiwis fought back to win the next three matches in the best-of-five series, to take the title.

Gifford said the standard of competition was high making it “a pretty hard-fought event”.

“We knew it was going to be tight competition, so we’re very happy with how we went, especially coming up against the Welsh who are number 20 in the world,” added Gifford, whose crew went in world-ranked 117.

“We had a little bit of practice before we came here, but it’s the first time we’ve raced together,” he said.

Throughout the event, the Kiwi crew lost only four matches, two in the round robin, and two in the final. In the semi-finals, they took on the RPAYC all-female team skippered by Juliet Costanzo and beat them 3-0, while Whitfield’s Welsh team sailed against the other RPAYC team skippered by Alistair Read. The Welsh team won 3-1.

Tom Spithill, the RPAYC’s head coach, commented: “The regatta went very smoothly. The breeze got up to 22 knots on the first day, and really tested everyone’s boat handling. It was light to moderate for the rest; a good all-round package. It showed who can sail well in all conditions.”

Ten international teams took part in the 27th Harken International Youth Match Racing Championship. Clubs represented were RPAYC, Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, Darwin Sailing Club, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club in New Zealand and Ireland’s Royal Irish Yacht Club.

The competition is raced in Elliot 7 boats of equal standard, making sailing skills paramount. Sailors must be under-23 and crews can field 4-5 members.

Bianca Cook, third from left, meets members of the Queen Charlotte Yacht Club at their new clubhouse. From left, Emily Overend, Kate Overend, Alexandra Thom, Jack Bennett and Harry Edwards. Photo: Peter Jones.

Bianca’s cooking up a round-the-world treat

Bianca Cook intends to sail around the world – but she’s going around her own country first.

The Auckland-based sailor was in Picton last week outlining her plans to skipper a Kiwi crew in the 2021 Ocean Race (formerly the Volvo and Whitbread round-the-world races).

Bianca has recent experience, having competed in the last version of the iconic race as part of the multi-nation Turn the Tide on Plastic crew, and is keen to see the New Zealand flag flying on a round-the-world racer again. The last time that happened was on Camper eight years ago, but that was alongside the Spanish flag.

She is currently touching base at yacht clubs throughout New Zealand, spreading the word of her yet-to-be-named campaign and sharing her experiences with fellow sailors as the ambitious project gathers momentum.

“It’s all about trying to connect with the yacht clubs around the country and give back. To talk about my experiences with the Volvo Ocean Race and also talk about sustainability and outline the research we found when we were sailing,” Bianca says.

“Also to allow the younger sailors coming through to realise that there are other avenues in sailing … that offshore racing is an option. Plus talking about what I have planned for the next race.”

And plans are certainly afoot. She already has a boat, having raised private funds to buy the familiar VO65 Turn the Tide on Plastic, which has now completed two global circumnavigations and which she describes as “bulletproof”.

Bianca has also recruited well, securing the services of Kiwi sailing legend Tony Rae, a veteran of six round-the-world races and seven America’s Cups, as shore-based team manager. Rae also has recent experience on the boat, having sailed it around the world in the 2014-15 Volvo race.

“I want to get people excited about ocean racing again,” Bianca says.

“We have got such a rich history in this race and it would be fantastic to have a Kiwi team that the country can be proud of and get behind.”

The 30-year-old says selecting a 10-strong crew, which must include at least three women, three sailors under the age of 26, six under-30 and three who have completed the race before, has had to take a back seat.

“The immediate hurdle is to get the finding to ensure we get to the start line. The boat has arrived in New Zealand [from Lisbon] … the beauty of it is that the boats are all one design and there is a bit of history there as well.

“Once they announce the race route it will be easier to approach sponsors … nobody has said it’s a bad idea yet,” she adds with a chuckle.

“I think we will make it to the start line, it’s just a question of how we will look when we get there. It depends on funding really, but we want to fly the Kiwi flag proudly and have the best team to represent the country.”

Bianca is quietly confident she has the experience and skills to skipper the Kiwi team.

“I wouldn’t have stepped up to this position if I didn’t think that I could do it. The people around me believe in me doing it as well.

“We have got time … next year the plan is to train solidly, do a tour around New Zealand … go back to what they did with Steinlager and Camper and others, plus we will do local offshore races, the Auckland to Fiji race, a newly-announced Sydney to Auckland race in 2021 and doing training around the Pacific Islands and in the Southern Ocean.

“We are lucky to have both those on our back doorstep. It’s going to be a steep learning curve but I’m definitely ready to take it on.”

Despite the intense physical and mental challenges that go with the territory, she says the urge to get back on the start line is strong.

“There’s something about this race that just draws you back. It’s the adrenaline rush and the race itself. It becomes like a family community, you just become part of this wider family. And there’s nothing better than sailing into your own country.”

Although a New Zealand stop-over has not yet been finally confirmed, Bianca expects that to happen and has her sights set on sailing into home waters, not only as the first Kiwi female skipper in the 46-year history of the race history, but also under a New Zealand flag with the home nation putting the wind in their sails.

But she is very clear on one point. “We don’t want to be just another boat on the start line, we want to be there to make sure we are winning.”