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Whitbread Veteran Line Up For Auckland Finish Of McIntyre Ocean Globe Race

History repeats itself as Maiden is welcomed by Steinlager 2 and Lion New Zealand into Auckland. The three yachts all have raced in the Whitbread. Credit: OGR2023/Aida Valceanu

Pen Duick VI second, Spirit of Helsinki third, Maiden fourth across the line with a Steinlager 2 and Lion NZ escort, recreating Whitbread history!

  • Pen Duick VI FR (14) stormed into second place 12 hours 16 mins behind the winner and provisional 7th in IRC after 37 days of Southern Ocean racing. Spirit of Helsinki FI (71) romp into third spot on the leaderboard just 2 hr 41 mins behind Pen Duick VI claiming provisional 3rd in IRC.
  • Maiden UK (03) crosses the line at 07:39:01 Dec 14th (NZDT) accompanied by Steinlager 2 and Lion New Zealand after 38 days of racing. Fourth in Line Honours and provisional fifth in IRC. 
  • Essential maintenance to be completed over the coming days in Auckland.
  • Tātaki Auckland Unlimited supporting a wonderful welcome for the fleet. The remaining yachts just days from Auckland finish. Explorer AU (28) and Sterna SA (42) weeks away.
Pen Duick VI returning to Auckland having first sailed here in 1977. Credit: OGR2023 / Jacqueline Kavanagh

It was a wild, wet and windy late-night welcome for the iconic 73-foot Bermudian Ketch, Pen Duick VI, FR (14), crossing the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron finish line at 01:41:20am (NZDT) 13th Dec 2023. Leaving Cape Town, Skipper Marie Tabarly stated that Leg 2 was Pen Duick VI’s for the taking as the big powerful ketch is built for Southern Ocean sailing. But only after crossing the finish line did she discover it was not to be.

They lost out to the Italians on Translated9 who crossed the line 12 hours earlier. Translated9 have taken first in Line Honours, provisional first in IRC and first in Flyer Class. Pen Duick VI is now 2nd in Line Honours, 7th in IRC and 3rd in Flyer Class.

Skipper of Pen Duick VI Marie Tabarly and Navigator Philippe Péché waiting patiently in the quarantine area in Jellicoe Harbour after arriving in Auckland. All yachts are required to be checked for prohibited goods, insects and pets! Credit: OGR2023/ Aida Valceanu

OGR followers will remember a tactical error during the final days of Leg one, Southampton to Cape Town, which cost Pen Duick VI the lead position they’d held for most of the race. The same might be said for Leg 2 when Maire took Pen Duick VI North through the Bass Strait between Tasmania and Australia. A high-pressure system initially pushed them north after passing the third of three-way points en route, meaning they’d little choice but to carry on through the Strait. For a while, it looked like it might have paid off, but Translated9 powered through on the Southerly route with Tasmania a long way to Port, looking for more consistent winds on the beam. It worked. They were pushed effortlessly up and around Cape Reinga, taking 1st spot.

Skipper Marie Tabarly explained the complexities involved in Leg 2.

Because of the waypoint we barely touched the Southern Ocean. We’d seen beauty for one week and then we had to come up. We didn’t have the right weather to go South again so we were obliged to stay North. We were very frustrated and it was very painful for us.

Marie Tabarly, Skipper of Pen Duick VI

She went on to explain they also have some work to do on their electronics after a wave hit the boat unexpectedly.

After we passed the Bass Straight we were under a spinnaker, and it had been three weeks with very gentle weather with no wind, so we were a little sleepy. And then the wind picked up very, very, very quickly and we lost control of the boat for a while and a lot of water went inside. Yeah, we have some work to do.  

Marie Tabarly explains

Tom Napper, first mate onboard Pen Duick VI, admitted they also have two primary winches to fix, as well as their blown spinnaker.

The leg had ups and downs. The start was incredible with us and Translated9 right by the French naval ship and us luffing them up and pushing them at the start line. It was incredible. The next day we saw whales breaching right among the fishing boats and loads of birds everywhere. And then straight after that, it went dead. Nothing, no wildlife. And then it went tits up. Then we’d have moments of breeze, no breeze, massive amounts of breeze, then no breeze. It was stressful and yes, I’m disappointed, especially because we were actually only hours behind Translated. It didn’t feel like a massive Southern Ocean leg. Didn’t see really big seas or winds. We went into it with this mindset of big winds, big seas, crashing oceans and the worst we saw were coming down the coast of New Zealand. 

Tom Napper, First Mate of Pen Duick VI

Auckland holds a lot of history for Pen Duick VI, Marie’s father Eric Tabarly sailed into Auckland in 1977. Some believe yachts are like elephants, they never forget – if only hulls could talk, Pen Duick VI could certainly tell a tale or two about former visits. In the first 1973 Whitbread she was dismasted twice and had to retire. In 1977, the ketch was disqualified from the race due to an IOR RATING certificate issue over a controversial uranium keel that wasn’t approved under race rules. Now she is halfway through the 50th Anniversary edition and looking forward to leg three.

Spirit of Helsinki sailed into Auckland in 1985 under the name Fazer Finland. Credit: OGR2023 / Aida Valceanu.

Skipper of the stunning Swan 651 Spirit of Helsinki (EX-Fazer Finland), Jussi Paavoseppä, admitted that pushing the boat too hard might be one factor in them surrendering the line honors title they held at the end of Leg One into Cape Town.

They crossed the finish line at 04:23:02 (NZDT) 13th Dec 2023 after 37 days of hard racing. They were very determined to hold onto their line honours title – but it was not to be.

Maybe we got too comfortable sailing the boat too fast. Maybe we pushed a little too hard. Yes, it’s nice to surf with the boat at 18 knots but then it’s too easy to make a mistake. And we did make mistakes and it did cost us a lot. I don’t want to count how many times the main sail was down and, in this race, you don’t want the main sail down. I would say we lost 300 miles by having to repair it.

Jussi Paavoseppä, Skipper of Spirit of Helsinki.

Spirit of Helsinki’s arrival to Wynyard Marina.

For Leg 2 Spirit of Helsinki are now 3rd in line honours, first in Sayula Class and provisionally 4th in IRC.

But without a doubt, the most iconic finish was reserved for Maiden and her female crew, skippered by the well-respected skipper Heather Thomas. They crossed the line at 07hr 39m 01 seconds, 14th December after 38 days of sailing. They were joined by Steinlager 2 and Lion New Zealand as they sailed towards the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, all three yachts have sailed into Auckland in the Whitbread Race.

Maiden forth across the line with a Steinlager 2 and Lion NZ escort, recreating Whitbread History!

In 1989 Steinlager 2 skippered by Sir Peter Blake was the only yacht ever to win all legs in a Whitbread race. Maiden finished second in her class and was the winner in Division D on two out of six individual legs of the race, including the longest leg, the 7,260-mile leg in the Southern Ocean, the best finish by a British boat for 17 years.

Tracy Edwards MBE skipper of Maiden in 1989 was impressed and happy… 

I am so incredibly proud of this extraordinary crew of Maiden. They have done us proud. To see them cross the finish line escorted by Steinlager was so emotional – of course, Maiden and Steinlager both won in their class over the line 34 years ago in the 1989/90 Whitbread and Lion New Zealand being there as well was incredible. I now know how my Mum felt.  As she would say ‘I am so proud I could burst.’

Tracy Edwards MBE skipper of Maiden in 1989
A happy crew arriving into Auckland having been welcomed in by Steinlager 2 and Lion New Zealand. Credit: OGR2023/Aida Valceanu.

Skipper Heather Thomas was naturally very relieved to have arrived after a challenging final few day.

I’m pretty tired, I’m not going to lie, so the last 24 hours have been pretty tricky navigation-wise so I’ve been up for the last 24 hours as there was so much going on. To be honest the Southern Ocean was a bit tame. A lot of the girls were a bit disappointed about how tame it was. So hopefully we can give them a bit more next time. The Tasman Sea was the roughest part. But I’m very happy to be here. New Zealand feels like home to me.

Heather Thomas, Skipper of Maiden, OGR2023
Now it’s time to party for Maiden. Credit: OGR2023/Aida Valceanu

Meanwhile the rest of the fleet battle on. The former Whitbread winner L’Esprit d’équipe FR (85), skippered by Lionel Regnier, are just two hours ahead of Triana FR (66), the Swan 53 skippered by Jean Arthuys, currently holding 2nd in IRC rankings. They are closing in on Cape Reinga and should be heading down the East coast in the coming hours. Fifteen miles separate the two and this turn around the Cape will make all the difference to the result.

Fifty miles separate the former Whitbread yacht Neptune FR (56), skippered by Tanneguy Raffray and the Swan 65 Evrika FR (07), skippered by Dominique Dubois. Crew member Bertrand Delhom, onboard Neptune, has Parkinson’s. He continues to prove there’s no barrier to sailing around the world. He explains how he has coped onboard on the weekly satellite call. Listen here.

Ville no doubt explained to Franklin the Cormorant about his rock & roll career back in Finland, thanks to his No 1 single Port Tack. Credit OGR2023/ Galiana WithSecure

Outlaw AU (08) and Galiana WithSecure FI (06) are one hour apart with just over 500 nm to go to Auckland.

Meanwhile, the remainder of the fleet continue to make their way to Auckland. White Shadow ESP (17) who are at the back of the main fleet are still charming with their poetic Tweets.

Tonight, the Milky Way is leading the way to NZ. It is impossible to steer without looking up. A real treat!” Message from White Shadow.

Patrick Bodiou battling the helm in 50 kt seas on Explorer. Credit: OGR2023/ Explorer

Sterna SA (42) and Explorer AU (28) are still benefiting from decent winds. At this pace, they should certainly make it in time to wave off the fleet on Leg 3 Auckland to Punta del Este and follow a few days later.  The OGR yachts will be in Wynyard Marina from arrivals in December until Start Day on January 14th.

The OGR race office is located in The Kiosk, Jellicoe Harbour at Wynyard Quarter, Wynyard Marina where official programs and some official OGR merchandise and posters are available.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Whitbread, the OGR is hosting a Whitbread Reunion on January 11th, 6pm – 8pm, in Auckland. All Whitbread and Volvo Race veterans are invited but need to register with OGR first for details.

For more information contact

The New Zealand Maritime Museum’s heritage scow, Ted Ashby, is available for a special sailing to the start of the Leg 3. Follow the iconic fleet as they set sail for Punta del Este, Uruguay.

For more information click on the following link:

visitauckland @VisitAuckland


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