It was a very early start on Thursday morning.
The skipper picked me up about 4.15am and we were on the water by 5am, heading out to the entrance to Tory Channel for the start of the annual WineWorks Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Yacht Race to Wellington.
Seventeen boats started at 8.30am and headed off in a northwesterly of about 50kmh. Many of the fleet headed north, while a small group went for a more southerly course. That included us, and it turned out to be the wrong tactic.
The wind dropped almost completely mid-race. When it came back again, the "northern fleet" picked it up first and raced in along the Wellington coastline, while the rest of us slopped around for quite a bit longer. That slopping around was just about the end for me; I can cope with rough water when it's coming at the boat, but when there was no wind and the boat was pitching and tossing in all directions, I started to turn green. Fortunately the wind picked up before it went completely pear-shaped.
The race winner in 5 hours 34 minutes was Mike Vining and his crew on Nefertiti, carrying Tohu Sauvignon Blanc 2012. Apparently they were about 15 minutes ahead on line honours. Second home was Clive Ballet on Slingshot (Lake Chalice). with Matt Kerr on Real Deal third (Nautilus).
My crew on Acquiesce was ninth, making it into Wellington shortly before the 4.30pm cutoff.
As we crossed the line we had to avoid the Singapore navy frigate Stalwart being guided out of its berth by a couple of tugs, before we headed for the wharf where the committee boat was tied up so we could toast the organisers and their guests with the latest vintage from Whitehaven, which was our cargo.
It was another successful race to unofficially launch the latest savs from Marlborough. The first race was in 2001 and it has been well supported, although it never seems to have taken off as a marketing event, which is a shame. The potential is there.
The real fun, though, was sailing back. We decided to return with another boat on Friday afternoon before the real messy weather set in. The wind was averaging about 70kmh through the strait during the trip, with a few swells hitting 3m, and it was more fun than the race.
It was another two days on the water I will always remember, thanks to the two Pauls who did most of the work.
- The Marlborough Express