A break in the weather

It’s been slow coming, but winter seems to have finally arrived. In the South Island, ski fields opened after heavy snowfalls, and in the North Island we’ve had weeks of wet, stormy weather.

For a boating magazine, prolonged bouts of bad weather pose challenges when it comes to featuring new vessels. Boatbuilders, importers and owners want to present their craft in the best possible light, so it’s not surprising they show little enthusiasm for on-water boat reviews when it’s blowing a gale and/or bucketing down with rain. Safety has to be considered as well.

And from the magazine’s perspective, it’s very difficult to present a story in a visually appealing way when the boat and everything surrounding it is grey. Wind and rain make photography (and drone flying) virtually impossible, so Boating NZ relies on decent weather to bring on-water reviews of new boats to our readers. A bit of sunshine goes a long way!

July’s edition has been more challenging than most in this respect. Relentless wind and rain caused the cancellation or postponement of several planned features, and as the issue’s print deadline approached, I was beginning to wonder if we’d have enough new boats to fill the magazine.

Thankfully – and as usually happens – it worked out fine in the end. Our Australian correspondent Kevin Green supplied a comprehensive review of Riviera’s new flagship vessel, the 78 MY, which debuted last month at the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show; John Macfarlane dodged rain squalls to sail the Given 14.5m sailing cat Katoa from Marsden Cove to Tutukaka; and at the 11th hour I managed to avoid thunderstorms to review Dreadnort Boats’ interesting V5500 CC trailer boat.

There’s plenty more winter to come, of course, but hopefully subsequent weather systems will move through a bit more quickly and provide a few more fine breaks between fronts!

With the shortest day already behind us and spring on the horizon, the thoughts of many will be turning towards the traditional start of the summer boating season. For Auckland sailors, that’s Labour Weekend, kicked off by the New Zealand Multihull Yacht Club’s (NZMYC) Coastal Classic Yacht Race.

This year the PIC Coastal Classic, starting in the vicinity of Devonport Wharf on the morning of Friday 21 October 2022, will celebrate the 40th and Russell.

With last year’s race cancelled due to Covid 19, it has been two years since the fleet sailed into the Bay of Islands, so the organisers “are beyond excited to get this race underway,” says NZMYC Commodore Greer Houston. After the Covid-induced break, a large fleet is expected to race this year.

To mark this 40-year milestone, organisers are offering entrants the chance to win two return airfares to Barcelona – the home of the 2024 America’s Cup. Entries are now being accepted online – www.coastalclassic.co.nz – and race organisers are encouraging participants to get prepared for the Labour Weekend ritual.

Looking forward to the race – and to spring – already!


Showtime!

The Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show came to a successful conclusion last Sunday, and as I write, Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show, arguably the Southern Hemisphere’s largest, has just opened with 300 exhibitors and over 600 boats. Sydney International Boat Show is scheduled for the end of July.

It was gratifying to see so many Kiwis thronging the exhibition halls and outside displays at Greenlane Showgrounds last weekend. Interesting, too, to note how few of the visitors wore masks, though most of the exhibitors did – some of the time, at least… I believe the term is ‘response fatigue’ and we’re all suffering from it – people are simply over Covid and the many restrictions the pandemic imposed on daily lives, including wearing masks. There’s an overwhelming desire to reset and ‘get back to normal’ even though the disease hasn’t by any means gone away.

I think that desire is reflected in the level of interest and healthy sales figures exhibitors reported from the show. Most New Zealand boat builders, importers and distributors can boast full order books, as has been the case the last two years – Covid couldn’t dampen New Zealanders’ appetite for boating. But for many in the marine industry, supply is by far the bigger issue than demand – stock is in short supply and most manufacturers are booked up well into next year, so you might have to wait a while for delivery of your new vessel.

And while the Hutchwilco is primarily a trailer boat show (with a few bigger boats trucked in), as usual, the range and diversity of craft presented was mind-boggling, if somewhat dominated by aluminium models.

New Zealand boat manufacturers are taking aluminium boats to another level, and while the domestic market makes up the bulk of sales, several companies are exporting boats to countries where ‘New Zealand-built’ equates with ‘premium’. All power to them.

There was considerable speculation amongst show exhibitors about how long the current high level of demand will last – boat builders might have full order books now, which should see them right for a year or two (provided sales don’t fall over in the meantime), but what about after that?

We might have to wait until next year’s round of boat shows* to get a true idea of how the boating public is navigating conditions. The whole world is facing economic headwinds and political uncertainty, with New Zealand very much on trend, so there could be challenges ahead.

But for now, recreational boating and the New Zealand boating industry appear to be in good health.


Gone, but (hopefully) not forgotten

Well, it’s official.

No surprises, I suppose – the intention to head offshore was flagged very early on – but Auckland will not host the 37th America’s Cup event in 2024. Instead, the Spanish city of Barcelona will have that honour – and responsibility.

Staging a successful America’s Cup event is no easy task, as Auckland found out last time around when the pandemic made a difficult logistics task even harder. That the 36th America’s Cup took place at all is something of a miracle, for which ETNZ deserves credit. Not only was the team instrumental in staging a memorable event, it also handsomely won the contest – at home in front of Kiwi fans.

However, ETNZ won’t be the home team in Barcelona. For many Kiwis they will no longer be ‘Team NZ’. With all the bad blood and bad press of the last 18 months, it seems a sizeable portion of the public no longer feels that ETNZ deserves our support. Others are happy no more public money is being spent on such an ‘elitist’ event.

But let’s put things in perspective. Firstly, hosting the event in Auckland was never a given, just as the decision to take the Cup offshore was never Grant Dalton’s alone. ETNZ and RNZYS, the Trustees of the America’s Cup, are equally responsible.

RYNZ’s Commodore Aaron Young shared the Squadron’s view with members: “Any venue decision must ensure the viability and success of Team New Zealand, the Event and our organisation”. Between them, ETNZ and RNZYS concluded that “Auckland in the end was not an option.”

Reasons given include: ”limitations of the Government offer (while valued at $99m of support, only $31m of this was in cash investment); and an understandable lack of appetite to invest more given the state of the economy and the impact of Covid.” In addition, RNZYS insists “no confirmed private funding was available.”

The decision to host the Cup in Barcelona also got the thumbs up from Challenger of Record, the Royal Yacht Squadron, and the other Challengers.

Secondly, it should be remembered ETNZ is not ‘our’ team in the way the All Whites, Black Caps, Silver Ferns, All Blacks and other representative sports teams are seen to be. ETNZ is a privately owned commercial entity, just like other AC teams (or Formula One teams, SailGP teams, professional football clubs and other sports organisations…). That ETNZ often enjoyed a measure of New Zealand government funding was fortuitous, but never guaranteed – other teams were never so lucky, though city and provincial governments are partially funding the Barcelona event.

With the Cup going to Barcelona, there’s a sense New Zealand, and especially Auckland City, has lost a wonderful commercial opportunity. Or maybe not – 2020-21’s event was hardly a stellar success in dollar terms.

Clearly, for ETNZ and RNZYS, hosting AC37 in Auckland in 2024 was never a viable alternative. It’s now Barcelona’s turn to enjoy some of the world’s most spectacular and exciting sailing.

I suspect there will be more than a few Kiwis heading to Spain in 2024 to support Emirates Team New Zealand. There will be many, many more watching at home, because, while ETNZ might not be a national team, it is full of Kiwis. And we always support our own.


Share the pain

Fuel prices are much in the news lately. As markets around the world react to the appalling actions of Russia in Ukraine, oil prices are rising fast and fuel supply is becoming constrained.

For New Zealanders, that translates to pain at the fuel pump and marina bowser, something the Government has tried to address in the short term by reducing the excise tax on fuel. This will certainly provide some relief, but with war in Ukraine raging and international sanctions on Russia tightening, oil prices look set to keep rising. Any benefits of the lower tax may soon be swallowed by higher international fuel prices.

Higher fuel prices are not good news for boaties, or anyone else for that matter. The economic knock-on effects will be felt by every sector, but it’ll be us – the ordinary citizens of New Zealand – who pay the price.

For the next few months, I suspect some boaties might think more carefully about how often they take their boats out, or how far – which is a shame after enduring two-and-a bit years of pandemicdriven disruption. Many of us were only just getting back into the swing of boating.

Sailing vessels will be less affected of course – the wind is free – but even for the rest of us who love boating, I’m guessing fuel prices would have to really skyrocket to keep us off the water. Anyway, there are many ways to reduce the fuel bill.

Slowing down is one. Just backing off the throttle by a few hundred rpm can save a lot of fuel and every vessel has a sweet spot where speed, fuel burn and distance covered align. Likewise, boating in rough conditions uses more fuel, so avoid it if you can, and don’t overload the vessel – more weight equals more fuel burnt. Another fuel saver is trimming the boat for optimal performance.

Amongst the trailer-boating fraternity, sharing the cost of fuel is quite common – everybody onboard contributes, not just the boat owner. It makes a day on the water affordable for all, especially when fuel prices are high.

Perhaps we’ll see more of it?

As I write, there is no sign the glorious, sunny autumn weather is going anywhere fast, though a break in the relentless easterly breezes that buffeted northern parts of the country through summer would be welcome. With shorter days and daylight saving about to end, perhaps the easterlies will relent long enough to enjoy some boating in pleasant conditions before winter sets in!

Autumn is one of my favourite times on the water, especially those calm days when the sun is shining (but not too hot) and the fish are biting. I’ve always got room in my boat for a couple friends willing to pay their share of the petrol!


Also our loss

Unsurprising perhaps, but unfortunate nonetheless, this ongoing Covid-19 saga has seen the cancellation or postponement of yet more events around the country.

Among them are the Antiques & Classics Boat Show, held annually at Lake Rotoiti in the Nelson Lakes district, and the Auckland Boat Show in Auckland’s Viaduct basin. Both are highlights in the boating calendar for many, but the runaway spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant and associated restrictions on gathering sizes has made these events impossible to stage.

For the organisers and exhibitors – as for many other events, boating or otherwise – cancellation is a difficult pill to swallow. All that preparation, organisation and investment coming to naught! In the case of the Auckland Boat Show, this is the third year in a row pandemic restrictions have forced the event’s cancellation.

The NZ Marine Industry Association, which runs the Auckland Boat Show on behalf of its members, is putting on a brave face and talking up next year’s show, March 9-12, 2023, which it promises will be bigger and better than ever.

Exhibitors have been supportive of NZ Marine’s decision to focus on the next edition of the show, but many are understandably disappointed it has been cancelled again this year. For the third year running, they’ve lost a wonderful opportunity to show their wares and promote their businesses to New Zealanders.

Equally, it’s a lost opportunity for us, the public, to see the latest and greatest in boating all gathered together in one place, also on the water. Fortunately, ticket holders will not be left out of pocket – tickets are automatically transferred to the 2023 show, or they can ask for refunds. Hopefully, most will support the show by rolling their tickets over and committing to 2023.

It is somewhat ironic that, while the pandemic has spurred record demand for boats and marine equipment, with events like the Auckland Boat Show falling by the wayside, there has been little opportunity for Kiwis to experience the new and exciting. Thank goodness for Boating NZ magazine!

On a personal note, after 30-plus years of attending more boat shows than I care to remember, I never thought I would say it, but I miss them! The good news? After a two/three-year hiatus, events like boat shows are coming back on stream everywhere around the world – New Zealand can’t be far behind.