New sponsor for solo yacht race

Taranaki's historic solo Tasman yacht race may have lost its principal sponsor but hauled in a new one.

Any potential crisis was averted when engineering firm ITL decided to pick up sponsorship of the race after Fitzroy Yachts pulled out due to its impending closure.

"We are delighted. It was great to have them come on board," the challenge committee's chairman Ron Scott said when announcing the ITL sponsorship yesterday.

ITL, which is both in New Plymouth and Brisbane, was enthusiastic about the advantages, Mr Scott said.

The race, which leaves Port Taranaki on Easter Sunday at 1pm, will now be named the ITL Solo Tasman Yacht Challenge 2014.

ITL New Zealand operations director, New Plymouth-based Colin Fromont said the company was happy to sponsor the race.

"They asked us if we would help out and I said yes."

The timing was perfect because the company was looking for something new and a bit different, he said.

He had been a yachtie in his home town of Auckland, the City of Sails, when growing up and admired sailors taking part in the solo race.

Mr Fromont was also intrigued with the book written by solo sailor and musician Andrew Fagan about his experiences while crossing the Tasman in the race in his 6 metre yacht in 1994.

"It was fascinating - and then he sailed back," Mr Fromont said.

The engineering operation's 160 staff would be able to follow the race which was being streamed online. "There's bound to be some sailors among them."

ITL was bought by Australian owners in May last year and was continuing to grow, he said.

Mr Fromont's mission is now to time his monthly visit to ITL's head office in Brisbane to ensure he is at the finish line when the first yacht arrives.

Brisbane is about an hour away from the Sunshine Coast Yacht Club at Mooloolaba where the yachts cross the line.

Mr Scott said the race can be followed on line at solotasman

Each yacht will have Yellowbrick tracking installed.

The 13 yachtsmen who have now confirmed they will join the event will put on a spectacle for the public when they sail across the New Plymouth foreshore before setting a course for Australia.

The first race was in 1970. The event is held every four years.

Taranaki Daily News