Mari Cha favourite for Millenium Cup

Keith Taylor previews the pre-America's Cup big boat action

Friday January 17th 2003, Author: Keith Taylor, Location: Australasia
The 30 nautical mile passage race to Kawau Island, the highlight next month of the
four day long New Zealand Millennium Cup Superyacht Regatta 2003, has attracted a stellar cluster of challengers intent on leaving Mari Cha III , the 147ft reigning champion in their wake.

To be sailed 10-13 February on the Hauraki Gulf, the superyacht regatta will be the curtain raiser to racing for the America’s Cup, which starts two days later on the 15th.

The 90ft Alfa Romeo and the 97ft Canon Leopard have both arrived in Auckland and are preparing to race. Ludde Ingvall 80-foot Travelex, formerly the maxi racer Nicorette, has also entered and is expected to arrive soon.

Alfa Romeo was the line honours winner in the recent Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, logging the second fastest-ever time, with Canon Leopard finishing third and Travelex fifth, in a span of just five hours.

There is visible evidence of the arrival of more superyachts in the increasing forest of tall white spars gracing the docks and quays of Auckland’s American Express Viaduct Basin.

The ketch rigged Mari Cha III, home ported in England and owned by Bob Miller, was the fastest yacht in the inaugural Millennium Cup three years ago. She has set records for the West to East transatlantic crossing and for the run from Sydney to Hobart.

Designed by Philippe Briand, she was built in New Zealand by Marten Marine and outfitted by Sensation Yachts, with spars by Southern Spars. For racing, some 16,000 kg of her elaborate John Munford-designed mahogany-paneled interior furnishing can be
removed and left ashore.

Alfa Romeo is the latest water-ballasted Shockwave maxi for Sydney-based New Zealand businessman Neville Crichton. The Reichel/Pugh design won this year’s Sydney Hobart Race without the benefit of water ballast and with a keel bulb five tons heavier than the sleek bulb she sports when racing with water ballast. Crichton has predicted speeds of up to 35 knots when sailing with water ballast to supercharge her performance. Built in Australia, she was outfitted in New Zealand with her Southern Spars mast and rig.

Canon Leopard, the brainchild of her owner Mike Slade, was launched in June 2000. Reichel/Pugh designed her for a multi-faceted role, including charter work with racing charters and sponsorship. Green Marine of Southampton, England, built the hull, deck and primary structures while Ken Freivokh Designs handled the yacht's interior and exterior design. In 2001 she set a new record for the Hoya Round the Isle of Wight passage. She also holds the Cowes-Dinard Race record.

“You’d have to favour Mari Cha to win the race to Kawau,” Slade said. “But a lot depends on the wind direction and speed and the sea state. It all depends on the day. We can’t pretend to be a flat out racer but we’ve raced Mari Cha in the Caribbean and the South
of France in the past and beaten her. We have an edge on a windward leeward course.”

The Swedish maxi Travelex is coming from Sydney and will be skippered by her owner Ludde Ingvall. A water-ballasted Simonis-Vogel design, she was the line honors winner in the stormy 2000 Sydney Hobart Race.

To date, 41 vessels have entered, while additional entries are still coming in. These include:

Alfa Romeo 27.45m / 90.0ft
Alithia 40m / 131.1ft
Antaeus 20.2m / 66.2ft
Charlatan 33.4m / 109.5ft
Chimera 31.6m / 103.6ft
Coconut 23.50m / 77.0ft
Destination Fox Harb'r 41.1m / 135.0ft
Freedom 37.73m / 123.7ft
Hetairos 42.7m / 140.0ft
Imagine 33m / 108.2ft
Innovision 24.89m / 81.6ft
Ipanema 34.17m / 112.0ft
Kokomo 40.6m / 133.1ft
Leopard 29.49 m / 96.7ft
Mari-Cha 111 44.72m / 146.6ft
Maya Ray 29.52m / 96.7ft
Moonblue 2 19.8m / 65.0ft
NZL 20 22.87m / 75.0ft
Pacific Eagle 31.1m / 102.0ft
Perseus 50.0m / 163.9ft
Phryne 49.8m/164.0ft
Picasso 20.13m / 66.0ft
Pink Gin 29.86m / 97.9ft
Sariyah 37.6m / 130ft
Sea Toy 19.91m / 65.3ft
Silvertip 33.82m / 110.9ft
Spada 33.7m / 110.5ft
Tabasco 23.18m / 76ft
Travelex 24.0m / 78.6ft
Ubiquitous 34.16m / 112.0ft
Unfurled 34.17m / 112.0ft
Yanneke Too 35.5 m / 116.4ft

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