Scheduled for Saturday 7th June 2014, Sail Fiji will be the 22nd race to the Fijian islands for the club that is considered the home of blue water sailing.
Established in 1895, Royal Akarana Yacht Club first ventured to Fiji in 1956 with 13 boats making the journey. Since then there has been many ups and down with ocean racing, however RAYC has maintained its heritage and continues to race.
With the introduction of the first trans-Tasman race in 1931, the club became the founder of blue water offshore racing in New Zealand and no other club has done more to foster this type of racing.
In 1951 the club added the White Island Offshore race to its program to encourage its sailors to venture further beyond the Hauraki Gulf without having to leave New Zealand waters.
The club was now home to many deep water yachtsman who were keen to experience new adventures and challenges and to meet this need the committee decided that a race north to the Pacific Islands would fit the bill.
Thus was born the Auckland to Suva race, now regarded as one of the world’s classic yacht races. It was seen as a way to get yachts up to the Pacific Islands for several months of tropical cruising during the winter months in New Zealand. It was held for the first time in 1956 with 13 entries and it was popular from the start – so much so that in 1973 there were 70 yachts and in 1977 a record number of 117 entries were received. This latter number was too great to be accommodated at the Royal Suva Yacht Club so half the fleet was sent to Lautoka.
In 1997, the race to Fiji was sent to the western side of Viti Levu for the first time. The yachts finished just inside the Momi Passage and they then were accommodated in a partially developed new marina at the Denarau Island Resort. The race has finished at Denarau a further four times and in 2006 the host location was the Vuda Point Marina at First Landing.
The year 2000 race was riddled with controversy – It was abandoned at the request of the RT Honourable Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand, due to the first Fijian Military Coup led by Colonel Sitaveni Rabuka. The majority of the fleet returned to New Zealand, whilst some altered course and headed to Noumea. A handful of boats continued to Fiji under their own authority.
The 2014 race will finish in the Momi Passage at the Navula Light with the fleet to be hosted at Port Denarau Marina. Expressions of Interest are coming through already with 21 yachts signed up and the Notice of Race and Official Entry due out in August 2013.
Different divisions have been created to encourage boats to join the fleet. General overall results will include PHRF, IRC, Mono Line and Multihull Line and a general monohull handicap as well as divisions for the European Cup, Classic Kiwis and Cruising.
Sail Fiji isn’t just for the racers and cruisers. Families are encouraged to make the short trip across to meet their partners after the race and perhaps stay on for a fantastic holiday at one of Fiji’s amazing resorts.
Exclusive deals and offers will be available for the Sail Fiji fleet – details regarding this will be available in the coming months.
“2014 marks a new era in the Auckland to Fiji Yacht Race which is being organised by a professional and dedicated team. This will be a race run by yachties for yachties and Port Denarau Marina is once again very proud to be associated with the RAYC and Sail Fiji 2014. We are continuously upgrading and enhancing our facilities and will once again welcome all entrants to a carnival atmosphere when they arrive in Denarau. We hope to have a large fleet not seen for many years and with your commitment and support I know this can be achieved. Be part of history, be part of SailFiji 2014. We look forward to welcoming the skippers, crew and families to our island paradise. Happy sailing.” Nigel Skeggs, Managing Director, Port Denarau Marina
For more information visit www.sailfiji.co.nz