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Back to the future: Ocean global race comes to Auckland

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Translated 9 sailing into Auckland. Photo / Michael Craig

Tamaki Makaurau welcomed the first of 14 yachts competing in the Ocean Global Race (OGR) with Italian entrant Translated 9 crossing the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron finish line of leg 2 at lunchtime.

The event celebrates 50 years since the first Whitbread Round the World yacht race using technology and yachts employed in those early days.

The crew have just paper charts and sextants to calculate their routes and books and cassette tapes to pass the many hours at sea between stops.

GPS, iPhones and computers are banned as are the latest developments in yacht racing technology with the likes of foils, daggerboards, canting keels and wing sails eschewed for good old fashioned nylon sails, ropes and heavy keels.

Competing yachts use technology available 50 years ago. Photo / Michael Craig
Competing yachts use technology available 50 years ago. Photo / Michael Craig

And the sailors themselves are described as ordinary rather than the professionals employed since the competition graduated to the Volvo Ocean Race in the early 1990s.

The youngest sailor, 17-year-old Ryder Ellis of Auckland, is on board the yacht Explorer sailing near the back of the fleet.

“I’ve been sailing since I was a little boy,” Ellis said before the yachts left Southampton in September. “My grandma Penny Whiting has run her sailing school for many years and taught thousands of people to sail. My father Carl has been in America’s Cup campaigns and done all sorts of sailing so I’ve always been around sailors and sailing.”

The event honours the memory of the Whitbread's greatest sailor, Sir Peter Blake. Photo / Michael Craig
The event honours the memory of the Whitbread’s greatest sailor, Sir Peter Blake. Photo / Michael Craig

Bringing the event to Auckland is special for the crews, organisers and observers honouring the memory of Sir Peter Blake, one of the greatest sailors to take part in the Whitbread racing. Blake competed in five Whitbreads, skippering Lion New Zealand to second place in 1985, then winning every leg of the 1989 event skippering Steinlager II. Both of Blake’s former yachts sailed alongside Translated 9 as she powered into the Waitemata Harbour.

Don McIntyre, founder of the OGR, said he wanted to recreate that feeling, where “ordinary” sailors could experience that special adventure.

It's an adventure that ordinary sailors can get to experience. Photo / Michael Craig
It’s an adventure that ordinary sailors can get to experience. Photo / Michael Craig

“To sail into Auckland on the 50th anniversary of the Whitbread with the support of Tātaki Auckland Unlimited and a fleet of exciting yachts as they were 50 years ago is a dream come true for the 200 sailors, partners and supporters involved,” McIntyre said. “We know Auckland and our hosts the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron will turn on something special as they always have.”

Chris Simpson, Head of Major Events at Tātaki Auckland Unlimited said that Auckland is considered the spiritual home of the Ocean Globe Race and the region has a strong connection with this event. “It’s a thrill to be able to host the sailors and their teams for the race’s significant anniversary on the Waitematā,” he said, “and we encourage Aucklanders and visitors to get down to the Wynyard Quarter and enjoy the stopover.”

The Ocean Global Race yachts will be at the Wynyard quarter they leave for Punta Del Este in Uruguay on January 14. See more at oceangloberace.com



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