Slow winds saw the NZ Millennium Cup fleet delayed for over an hour on the last day of racing.
While the eight yachts waited, tension built among the entries - and with good reason; the race was anyone’s. In the Millennium Cup division, four of the five entries were tied equal and the winner would take it all.
At 13:10, the first of the fleet was off and, headed off for the first mark, the teal horizon was broken only by the kites of the pack and the lone fluke of a whale towards Roberton island.
Steady winds saw the fleet hold their positions until they approached the fourth mark. With Shamoun in the lead, Kealoha gradually overtook Tawera as they bore down on the fourth mark.
With the Nine Pin falling away behind them however, Tawera clawed her way back, pulling away from Kealoha as they headed straight down the bay to the finish line. Janice of Wyoming and Silvertip were rapidly gaining too. Thundering towards the Nine Pin, they had the legs to overhaul the leaders, and came around the distinctive big rock, on the hunt for the rest of the fleet.
“A drag race,” was how Matt Bridge, tactician on board Shamoun described the situation, and he was right.
To starboard, Tawera and Kealoha were tearing alongside each other, battling for ground. Shamoun was to port, having found herself a lane which looked set to lead her right to the line.
That lane paid dividends as they approached the mouth of the bay with Shamoun sailing strongly as the line came into sight.
But then disaster for the Claasen-built classic. A lull in wind saw her drop in pace - only slightly - but enough to see her competitors to port gain crucial ground.
As they powered for the line, it was Kealoha and Tawera neck and neck - stretching down the Bay with kites out and all eyes fixed forward.
Then with a neat gibe it was over; Tawera’s quick turn sent her flitting across the line, just seconds in front of Kealoha.
Shamoun followed her fellow Claasen-build in, and within four minutes of the winner cross the line, Janice of Wyoming, and then Yachting Developments’ Silvertip were in.
“A splendid gibe,” was the way Peter Montgomery MBE, described the deciding play in his opening speech at the prize giving later that night. Winners, Tawera received a haul of goodies including Mount Gay Rum, Coast products, and of course, the Cup.
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