At the top of the North Island of New Zealand lies what is referred to as one of the world’s great natural playgrounds. The Bay of Islands is formed of 144 islets and, from 30 January to 2 February, it will host a fleet of superyachts racing through its emerald waters and tearing around its sand-fringed shores.
A series of courses will display the cruising ground to its best advantage while giving some of New Zealand’s best sailors a chance to show off their home turf, as rockstar international race crew fly in for the competition.
“Doyle Sails New Zealand is especially looking forward to this year’s NZ Millennium Cup under the ORC Superyacht Rule (ORCsy). It’s always been such a pleasure to be a part of this world-class regatta and now it will be recognised under a world-class rating system,” says Doyle Sails’ Mike Sanderson, former winner of the ISAF Sailor of the Year Award.
The ORC Superyacht Rule promises exceptionally close racing, with ORC officials joining the race-management team on the water and courses designed for race excitement.
"Short courses with three start options along with one long course promise to provide variety as the regatta progresses, and gives race management flexibility to work with New Zealand’s changeable conditions to create fierce, fun racing,” says NZ Millennium Cup Race Officer of the Day, Harold Bennett.
The Cup is in its 11th edition this year, and was first raced as an adjunct to the 30th America’s Cup in Auckland. Now, with the 36th America’s Cup approaching, organisers have been excited to see an increase of interest both in the regatta and in New Zealand’s wider cruising grounds.
With America’s Cup racing returning, they’re expecting to see a number of visiting spectator yachts enter the NZ Millennium Cup, pushing fleet numbers to an estimated 50 or more.
“We’re pleased to welcome back our long time supporters, Sassafras, Tawera and Silvertip as well as new entry Freya and returning entry Thalia. They’re very evenly matched so we’re looking forward to an epic showdown, says Cup organiser, Stacey Cook.
Dolphins race alongside Enso at the NZ Millennium Cup. (Credit: Jeff Brown)
Royal Husiman-built Sassafras cuts an elegant figure on the Bay of Islands waters and is much-loved for her grace around the course.
“Being a regular visitor to the Bay of Islands makes the NZ Millennium Cup a great way to enhance our time in this stunning part of New Zealand,” says Sassafras Captain Tim Michalick.
"We have raced the NZ Millennium Cup multiple times with Silvertip since its first edition in 2000, and won it twice. It is always a special event which deserves much more success. Racing in the Bay of Islands surrounded by a dolphin pod playing at the bow is always a treat, the organisation is flawless, the scenery second to none and the racing quite competitive. Any superyacht cruising in the Pacific should make a point doing the NZ Millennium Cup, says the owner of 33.8metre entry, Silvertip.
Competing since 2016, Tawera and her owners and crew have become favourite figures on the course with their all-in approach to racing coupled with a sense of camaraderie, fun and inclusiveness that has helped shaped the regatta to what it is today. Tawera is a two-time winner of the Cup and will be going into racing keen to regain her title.
New entry Freya was completed in 2012 and was the 2000th Swan to be built. Freya is a high-performance yacht used for both competitive racing and extended cruising and has exhibited strong performance in previous regatta appearances, including in the Rolex Swan Cup, the Palma Superyacht Cup and the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.
This year will also see the NZ Millennium Cup welcome back an old friend in S/Y Thalia, which last competed in the regatta in 2009. At 48.4 metres, the Vitters-built and Ron Holland-designed ketch will be a graceful silhouette on the Bay of Islands courses and, having recently undergone a refit with Orams Marine, she's fighting fit and ready to race.
On-water the racing will be relentless, but the regatta is proud to announce it has become a certified Clean Regatta to ensure it’s gentle on the environment. That means no single use plastic, minimised paper waste, stringent recycling and a number of other initiatives.
“Our beautiful environment and natural heritage play a huge part in what makes the Cup so special and it was a no-brainer to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect this spectacular part of the world. From reusable metal water bottles for every yacht, to banning single use plastic, we feel very positive about becoming a Clean Regatta,” says organiser Stacey Cook.
Racing around 144 islets in the natural obstacle course of the Bay of Islands. (Credit: Jeff Brown)
An app - find it at nzmillenniumcup.teamapp.com - has been added to help overseas spectators keep up with events and ensure yachts are instantly informed of updates or race changes.
Change of dates
The regatta dates have been moved back by one week to see it run one week after local regatta, Bay of Islands Sailing Week, giving organisers space to add new and challenging courses.
The regatta’s future
“There’s no better place in the world to sail,” said 2018 New Zealand Millennium Cup winner Marcus Blackmore, owner of Ammonite as he accepted his prize in January last year.
The New Zealand Millennium Cup attracts yachts with a penchant for adventure and is lauded by entries for the sense of camaraderie found in this part of the world - part of the draw for yachts already lining up to be involved in years to come.
“We’re already receiving entry enquiries; for 2020 and 2021,” says event organiser, Stacey Cook.
“The J Class Association has also accepted our invitation to race in 2021 and we know having the strikingly-elegant classic yachts race alongside the NZ Millennium Cup will add an extra dimension to our racing.”
*Photo credit: All images courtesy of Albatross PR/NZ Millennium Cup