Leg 1 - The Course
The first leg of the RNI is a sprint from Auckland up to the coastal town of Mangonui. The leg is only 155nm long, only marginally further than the Coastal Classic race we did last year.
In 'normal' conditions, with a bit of breeze we would expect to do the leg in under 24 hours, so it's short, intense sailing with little room for rest and high consequences for mistakes or indecision.
The start of the race is at Devonport Wharf, in Auckland Harbour. There is a quick leg down to North Head where we turn North and head out the Rangitoto Channel. From here we shoot across to Whangaparoa and Kawau Island.
After Flat Rock we go past a long series of headlands, some of them well known landmarks such as Cape Rodney, Tutukaka and Cape Brett. Each time you pass these waypoints you turn a wee bit more to the North, and then ultimately into the West.
Right in the middle of the race track, just north of Cape Rodney are The Hen and Chicken Islands and the majestic Sail Rock. These islands present a bit of a tactical decision. You need to choose going inside or outside the islands. During the coastal the outside route paid handsomely (we went inside!). In many races in the past the inside track has been favourable as you stay in the high-lane with a Westerly breeze.
Here's a wee video of us sailing past the Hen and Chickens and Cape Rodney on the way back from the Coastal Classic:
After passing Cape Brett and 'the hole in the rock' we head across the Bay of Islands, where once again there are an inconveniently located set of islands in the middle of the race track. The beautiful Cavalli Islands are well known for the wildlife, diving and as the resting place of the Rainbow Warrior. It's the same distance going inside and outside of these islands so you need to choose the route with the best breeze.
Once past the here it's a 20nm sprint to Berghan Point and around the corner to Doubtless Bay and the finish.
Mangonui itself is one of the northernmost harbours on the East Coast and a great choice for the 40 boat fleet in the RNI. It's famous for it's beauty, the local beaches, possibly New Zealand's best climate and most of all, an amazing fish and chip shop that serves up some truly kapai kaimoana.
We'll get just over a day to tidy up and rest in Mangonui. The sailing instructions (rules for the race) say that after approximately 60% of the fleet have finished the leg there will be a compulsory layover of a minimum of 24 hours. Then we'll all be off again in a mass start - bound for Wellington.
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