Amokura ready for ITM New Zealand SailGP

The New Zealand SailGP Team will be back in black later this month, with the team’s F50 ‘Amokura’ set to make the startline on Whakaraupō, Lyttelton Harbour (18-19 March). The update follows days of inspection, testing, refit and repair at SailGP Technologies in Warkworth. 

The damaged F50 returned to Aotearoa, New Zealand following a lightning strike on the second and final day of the Singapore Sail Grand Prix. Since, the boat has been given the ‘green light’ by technicians following structural load testing - an operation in which the F50 platform is loaded to simulate stresses experienced while sailing - as well as extensive visual inspections, ultrasound testing, and electronic tap testing of all parts. The boat has also undergone a full electronic and hydraulic refit to replace componentry damaged due to electrical surge.

For the team at SailGP Technologies, it’s been all hands on deck, with designers, engineers and boat builders and the tech team alike chipping in to get Amokura race ready for SailGP’s long-awaited New Zealand debut. Amokura departs Auckland by train tonight, packed into containers to make the trip to Lyttelton. There, the SailGP Tech Team will finalise the fitout and ensure all systems are working properly in advance of race weekend.

Brad Marsh, SailGP Tech Team Director said: “Having tested all the main components of the F50, we are very proud to say [Amokura] is a-okay.

“Following the three-hour structural testing process, we’ve been able to shift our focus from uncovering what’s wrong with the boat, to putting her back together to complete the electronic and hydraulic fit out and get Amokura back in action and ready to go sailing at the Christchurch event.”

Late last week, it was confirmed that the ITM New New Zealand Sail Grand Prix | Christchurch would proceed as planned on 18 -19 March, with at least eight boats on the startline and best efforts to secure all nine.

For New Zealand SailGP Team Wing Trimmer Blair Tuke, receiving the final bill of health has been an exciting milestone on the road to Lyttelton.

“It’s super exciting for us to know we will be back on Amokura for our first home event. There was a massive effort by many to get the boat we used in Sydney ready to race, but to have Amokura, the F50 we’ve sailed on throughout our journey with SailGP, is something the whole team is looking forward to,” Tuke said.


THE ANNOUNCEMENT late last year of New Zealand successfully securing a Free Trade Agreement  (FTA) with the United Kingdom marked a historic turning point for economic growth and  relations in both countries.

With the removal of tariffs alone, New Zealand exporters are expected to save over NZD 37  million per year. Importers are also set to take full advantage. New Zealand is a key leisure  marine market with some of the highest boat ownership per capita globally. Princess Yachts  successfully lobbied the UK Department of International Trade. As a result, the FTA includes the removal of the 5% tariff (import duty) on UK-manufactured boats and ships imported into NZ.

Princess Yachts chief marketing officer Kiran Haslam has plans to double their unit sales in  the New Zealand market thanks to the removal of the tariff. This increase in sales is  estimated to create 32 new jobs directly and 140 more in the wider economy.

Scott Williamson of Princess Yachts New Zealand and Fiji said “We’re now on a level playing field with some competitors and have a new competitive  advantage over others.”

The FTA is  set to be ratified by both countries in 2022 and the Princess Yachts order book  is filled through to late-2023.

Speaking for orca

Spend ten minutes talking with Dr Ingrid Visser and you’ll want to save every orca in the ocean. Story by Lindsay Wright.

Since completing her doctorate on orca (the first scientific study of the mammals in New Zealand) in 2000, she’s been hard at work doing just that.

“We’ve got fewer than 200 New Zealand orca – a South Island population, North Island population and one that travels around both islands. And then there are the pelagic orca which are typically found way offshore, but which visit every so often,” she says, “to hunt for dolphins near our coastline. The more I learn about them – and the more time I spend with them – makes me realise just how little we know.

“But we’ve got to stop using the ocean as a great toilet and get rid of the belief that you can dump everything into it and it just disappears. Some New Zealand towns still flush raw sewage straight into the sea.

“New Zealand orca carry the highest concentrations of chemical pollutants among marine mammals in the Southern Hemisphere. DDT, PCBs, flame retardants, agricultural chemicals – you name it – and as orca are at the top of the food chain, they get it all.”

One probable reason, she says, is that their preferred diet is rays, particularly the liver. “Rays are shallow water feeders. Their diet is filter feeders like pipis and cockles which are prone to ingesting pollution. That, in turn, becomes concentrated in the rays’ liver.”

New Zealand orca also have the highest recorded numbers of boat strike injuries. “There’s a huge number of Kiwis out on the water at this time of year, and many of them aren’t too familiar with the law about the conduct of vessels around marine mammals.” (see sidebar page 35) Visser’s parents immigrated to New Zealand from the Netherlands in the 1950s and she was born in Lower Hutt in 1966. “Dad decided my sister Monique and I should visit the Netherlands to have a look and meet relatives,” she recalls. “He decided it was crazy expensive to fly the whole family there – so he bought a yacht and we sailed.”

That yacht was the 17m steel ketch Wai-O-Tira and the trip back to Europe developed into a 50,000 nautical mile, four-year cruise that touched on 40 countries around the world.

“I’m really grateful to Mum and Dad for doing that trip,” she says. “It taught me independence and how to shoulder responsibility. When you’re on watch on your own at night in the middle of the ocean, you’re aware that you have the lives of your family in your hands.

“At sea, nothing comes easy – you have to work for it. You have to strive towards a goal and just keep going. Many people grow up now without seeing the horizon – just acres of buildings – but at sea all you have is the horizon – it trains you to be open-minded.”

Her early hero was Dian Fossey, the American zoologist who studied gorillas in Rwanda for many years and Visser’s father gifted her a book by teenage solo sailor Robin Lee Graham which was also inspirational. “It reinforced the idea that you could shape your own destiny.” But most of all she gained a deepseated passion for the ocean and the creatures within it.

Back in New Zealand, she worked in an aquarium and began studying marine biology. At the New Zealand launch of the David Attenborough book Trials of Life, she was entranced by the cover photo of orca launching themselves on to an Argentinian beach to grab sea lions.

“How do I get there?” the would-be biologist asked Attenborough. “Why don’t you look at doing it here?” the venerable author replied, and the die was cast. She began spending time with New Zealand’s own orca – painstakingly cataloguing individuals and their behaviour.

“We began with zero in the database,” she laughs, “and I must admit I struggled with some pompous, paternalistic academics who scorned our public-citizen-science sightings.”

She found that orca often stayed in the family pod in which they were born, had highly individual personalities and their own distinctive culture. The big mammals were distinguishable by marks and scars on their dorsal fin and the shape of the grey saddle marking on their backs.

In 1997 she obtained a 5.8m Naiad RIB to get closer to her subjects and it’s powered by a 90hp four-stroke Yamaha outboard. How fast does it go? “I don’t really know,” she laughs, “I’m more interested in going slow around the animals. It’s very quiet – I can idle alongside them and you’d hardly know it was running.” But the orca have come to know the boat and will swim by to say ‘hello.’

Many of the local orca have names, some chosen by school children – Pickle is missing the tip of her dorsal fin, while Funky Monkey has a kink in his dorsal fin. “They favour shallow waters like Whangarei Harbour,” she explains, “and as with all the dolphins, are born tail first and protruding so that they learn how to use their tail even before they leave the womb. Once born the young lie alongside the mother to suckle – which is difficult if there’s a lot of wave action, so they often seek sheltered waters to give birth.

“The loss of one female can have catastrophic consequences for a pod – the offspring stay with them for life. Young males typically don’t survive without their mothers and upon her death their whole social network becomes unstable.”

When a call comes in the small hours from the Orca Research Trust help line (0800 SEEORCA), Visser will leap out of bed, load the Naiad and head off to relaunch a beached orca.

The orca feed in shallow water so the odd stranding is an occupational hazard. “It’s a tremendous thrill getting one back in the water – the whole pod will typically be waiting offshore and they have a big reunion when the stranded animal rejoins them – lots of splashing and socialising. And you get a buzz out of seeing them swimming around years later.”

If there are no reported sightings of a particular animal for five years or so, she considers it a concern. If they still haven’t been seen for 10 years, they’re probably dead.

She urges crayfishermen to keep their pot lines as short as possible. “Many orca are lost by becoming entangled in pot lines and drowning.”

It’s not only the local orca that come under her aegis. She’s also helping the effort to free Morgan (www.freemorgan. org), a female orca being held at an aquarium in Europe. “It’s heart-breaking,” she says. “Captive orca are kept in tiny concrete tanks, too shallow for diving. They wear their teeth out chewing at the concrete in frustration. The dorsal fins on captive adult male orca just flop over – it’s awful. They end up in captivity because of money, so the simple way to help them is not buying tickets to any aquarium that keeps marine mammals in captivity.”

Wherever there’s orca – there’s Ingrid. She’s an internationally-recognised advocate for protecting orca against boat strike, marine pollution, habitat destruction and keeping the animals in captivity. She also lectures on small cruise ships, mostly in Antarctic waters, and advises on film projects – notably Jean Michel Cousteau’s award-winning Call of the Killer Whale. Her own autobiography is Swimming with Orca.

With her plaited blonde pony-tail and irrepressible grin she’s on site at many of the country’s whale strandings, urging teams of volunteers to greater efforts.

She has the easy manner and approachability of someone who has spent a career doing something they love. “It’s the orca,” she says. “They still amaze me every time I see them.”


Escaping lockdown

Everyone dealt with Covid lockdown’s cabin fever last year in different ways. Mike Delamore took off on a solo circumnavigation of New Zealand. Story by Alex Stone.

t’s surprising how few people have done this – or perhaps not surprising, given the rugged nature of the Fiordland and Wairarapa coasts. That was where the trimaran Rose Noelle came to grief in 1989, if you recall. Which led to a survival tale for the ages, when John Glennie, James Nalepka, Rick Hellriegel and Phil Hoffman survived adrift on the wreckage for 119 days, before washing up on Great Barrier Island.

And yes, Mike and his yacht Cavatina had the lot thrown at them on this trip too – including 12 hours running under bare poles in 60 knots off the South Island’s east coast. But he’s seen it all before.
You may recognise Mike’s name as the regular mate aboard Henk Haazen’s remarkable ice-capable steel yacht Tiama. Together they’ve taken many scientific expeditions – DOC ecologists, NIWA and MFAT researchers – to New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic Islands, to the Balleny Islands, the Ross Sea, and Antarctica itself.
Like many, he baulked at the confines of the Covid lockdown. His mood developed into an immediate action plan – a fundraising trip, a solo circumnavigation of New Zealand. The vessel for the trip – a steel, Queensland-built Van der Stadt 34 sloop, with a hard doghouse – entirely suited the bill.

Cavatina was going at a pleasing ‘lockdown price’ and he knew what he wanted for his circumnavigation yacht. He’s always been around boats, and when he returned to New Zealand in 1985 after an extensive OE, he and wife Vibhusha bought a 36-foot, triple-skin kauri yacht.
She was built by Richard Wilson, and named Tribute, in honour of his father Brin. In the free-and-easy time before kids, Mike and Vibhusha sailed Tribute to Alaska and back, by way of a string of Pacific Islands – French Polynesia, the Marquesas and Hawai’i.
He also gained a commercial skipper’s ticket and has driven the Waiheke fast ferries for four years. He’s delivered superyachts across the Atlantic. He was mate and engineer on the ex-Danish royal yacht Galema (now in Auckland). He served on the ship Braveheart, which supplied Pitcairn Island during the alleged sex crimes trials there. The ship would bring supplies and legal people to the small island and ferry them backwards and forwards from and to the closest airstrip at Manureva Island.

By Friday September 4, Cavatina was lying at Waiheke Island, ready to go. The voyage’s fund-raising was for the continued restoration of Kate, a classic sailing boat now back on the water around Waiheke Island. The circumnavigation – counter-clockwise – eventually raised $7,000 for Kate and raised a heap of awareness about her restoration.
His blogposts gathered a keen audience. They ranged from the trivial problems besetting any offshore sailing trip, to things way more epic, sometimes life-threatening. Here’s a sample:
Tues Sept 8: Hove-to in the lee of Cape Brett to fix a jammed reefing line. Quite a ride up the coast last night with strong SE wind and 2-3m seas… Came in between Piercy Island and Cape Brett through a bit of a maelstrom but the birds were loving it. Thousands of diving petrels, sooty shearwaters, fluttering shearwaters and fairy prions in feeding frenzy.
Wed Sept 9: Now I am motor-sailing, after first tightening the squealing alternator belt, then removing a piece of wood from the engine box which the engine had been vibrating against. This cured a loud tapping that sounded like either the prop was going to fall off or the engine self-destruct. Then the Iridium died – completely. Eventually I removed its battery and tested it – 4.5 volts and it runs on 4.7 volts. Nothing wrong with the battery. Put it back in and it started up. So there you have it folks: if your piece of electronic trickery stops working just turn it off and then on again…

Rounding Cape Reinga: Came up to North Cape last night and dropped the pole off the genoa and reached along the coast past Tom Bowling and Spirits Bay. Early morning light brings me to Cape Reinga in thankfully quite placid conditions. It can be a fearsome place here where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea and all their associated waves, swells, currents and tidal streams collide over a series of banks. There are always rollers breaking over these and it pays to skirt around them keeping outside the 50m depth contour.
Back where I started from, Thurs Sept 10: At least latitude-wise, I am at the same point where I departed Waiheke Island – but 150 miles to the west out in the Tasman. Here the sea is nearly 2,000m deep and there are a bunch of submarine cables running directly underneath me, no doubt packed full of internet traffic. As I type this on my phone a squall comes through, but I am already down to the second reef and though pressed hard by the 30kt winds we ride through it comfortably. The torrential rain flattens the tops of the waves but I sit dry as a bone in the doghouse. I love my doghouse…

Anticyclonic gloom: Morning brings a grey sky and sea with a cold westerly wind. Reflects my mood a bit as I was up and down all night making course adjustments, reefing and furling, shaking out reefs and unfurling and adjusting the preventer until I gave up and just jogged along under reduced sail.
Crossing the centre of the high: It’s mirror calm out here, like a lake of quicksilver that pulses and undulates with the undying swell. Even the mollymawks have given up and bob about looking rather disgruntled. Two seals came to visit, poking their whiskery snouts out of the water and regarding my passing with limpid eyes.
The ups and downs of life, Friday Sept 11: Just after 0900 we came off the top of a wave that had nothing behind it and all five tons of the boat plus me hit the bottom of the trough with a terrible crash. After I had checked my fillings were still in place I realised we had rounded up into the wind and looked out the back to see the autopilot ram had broken off its mount. The rudder must have kicked so hard when we hit bottom that it sheared off.

Sunset in the Tasman, Sat Sept 12: A lovely sunset this evening with soft pastel shades of pink and orange spreading across the sky. I am almost halfway down the West Coast now with about 370 miles to run to Doubtful Sound.
Running for it, Tuesday Sept 15: I got absolutely hammered last night with winds of 40kts and 5m seas. I’ve had enough of the last two days incessant pounding on the hull. The final straw came when I was standing in the doghouse and a giant wave completely buried the boat and nearly threw me down the companionway as we were slammed right over on our side. I have given up trying to reach Doubtful Sound and am now running directly downwind towards Milford Sound where I hope to find a safe haven.
Milford Sound, Tuesday Sept 15: Yay! Gybe round Dale Point and into the Sound proper. Mist, sheer snow-capped peaks, threads of waterfalls everywhere descending thousands of feet. And the sea is flat!
A world of water: I feel like I am living in some mystical water world where it never stops raining and everything lives and breathes in a liquid medium. All words and thoughts relate back to the elements of wind and water against the backdrop of the soaring rocky peaks that surround me and whose roots cradle the deep green depths on which I ride… Higher up it is snowing. If it is not raining it is hailing, mixed up with some thunder and lightning, and always there is wind lashing spray off the water and tearing the perpetual plumes of the waterfalls into horizontal streaks. It is wild, elemental and extraordinarily beautiful.

The call of the kea: Sitting on a mooring in Deepwater Basin. It is incredibly quiet and still. The only sound the burbling of my Caveman TV (the Dickinson diesel stove), and high up in the mist the call of the kea.
From this remote spot, Mike was able to contact Auckland’s Half Moon Bay Electrical (by Iridium satellite phone) to order a spare autopilot and have it delivered to the Fiordland Lobster Company wharf in Deepwater Cove, where he also topped up with fuel.

From The Hare’s Ears to kakapo country, Wed Sept 23: After clearing the Shelter Isles and the aptly-named outpost sentinel of The Hare’s Ears, we spend the first hour in a confused, lumpy sea, left over from the last few days of stormy weather. As we parallel the rugged coastline I watch the huge swells that have been rolling under us explode in great fountains of white against the rocks, smashing with tremendous power into the jagged coastline.
The mountains rise steep from the sea, clothed in wind-sculpted rata and olearia, here and there scarred with great rocky slips, a legacy of a massive rain event last year. I first aim straight for Breaksea Island. Here some of the few remaining kakapo find sanctuary in a predator-free environment. We amble up the nice quiet sound and find good anchorage between Harbour Island and the shore. The bellbirds are singing in the beech trees.
Puysegur Point to port, Fri Sept 25: I have resisted the siren song of a safe anchorage and am heading off into the night. I have just passed Puysegur Point, reputably the windiest place in New Zealand. 25kts behind me and it should be a fast run tonight.
Mike only stopped twice – in Fiordland and at Bluff. The notorious tidal race at Bluff had him in its grip – it took three hours to motor from the entrance to the wharf, against a full ebb! “The harbour has a very fast tidal stream running at up to 7kts at times and with wind against tide I have seen [from Tiama] 2m standing waves in the channel. Today was about average, so I was motoring at 5kts against a 4kts outgoing tide.”
And he adds a bit of oddball intel about Bluff Harbour: “All the docks have tyres hanging down – giant mining truck tyres – and with a 2.7m tide if you get your gunwhale caught under one of these, it will sink you as the tide rises. There are giant piles of woodchips, ready for export, and on a windy night they rain sawdust and grit down on your boat. On a really windy night the stacks of empty containers blow over, and you think the world is coming to an end.”
For once, Mike allows himself some modest skiting: “Fortunately I know Bluff well and it was with a certain elan and insouciance that I navigated this hell-hole of a post-apocalyptic port.” Certainly, a far cry from the sublime nature of the Sounds!

A new challenge, Sunday Sept 27: I know there are squalls out there in the blackness just waiting to pounce. It is freezing. That wind is bitterly cold. I need to dry some things out. For my stupid act of the day I left the quarter berth porthole unlatched and a wave filled the cockpit. It burst the porthole open and fire-hosed my bunk. My nice warm burrow is now a soggy mess. I am not a happy marmot.
The Last Cape, Wed Oct 7: 1100 and I round Cape Colville, the last turning point of my voyage and now it’s a straight leg to Matiatia, my home port and mooring on Waiheke Island. Straight ahead would be very nice, but it’s blowing right from where I want to go….
The circle is complete: At 1610 I crossed my outbound track, surging into Matiatia in a brisk southwest wind. I rounded up in the lee of the headland, furling the genoa and dropped the main for the last time. After a month at sea I felt like an albatross folding its wings as it returns to land from its surging across the boundless oceans….

On the dock – as I glide into the wind, finally engineless simply because I have run out of fuel – are my dear friends and family. They have come to help and share in what is for me a very moving moment. Their kindness and care touches me deeply.
The challenges of solo sailing are great – and mostly mental and emotional. Says Mike: “I have sailed 2,500 miles around New Zealand, through triumphs and disasters, challenges great and small, through happiness and despair. Through every emotion really. The hardest part has been dealing with myself, with the little mind that wants to give up or complain or be lazy or just feel sorry for itself.”
So how does he rate himself as a solo sailor? “I can’t say I enjoyed it all the way. It was a good challenge, with some fantastic times. I had Milford Sound all to myself, which is pretty unique and there were those perfect moments when the moon was rising or there were dolphins zooming around the boat, and you feel at one with the whole universe and the whole experience of it.

“But it was pretty epic and pretty tough. I feel like I have been through the wringer a bit.”
And there’s a final caveat – and perhaps the ultimate testimonial to his extreme escape from the Covid thing: “I feel better for the experience, cleansed in some way by the wind and the salt spray.”