Set in one of the world’s most sensational natural playgrounds, the annual New Zealand Millennium Cup is the South Pacific’s premier superyacht regatta. You don’t need to love competitive sailing to enjoy the experience, though, with increasing numbers of spectator yachts joining the regatta to tackle the course at their own pace and view the fierce racing close up. This year the event will run the 30th of January to February 2nd and is expected to draw talented crews and yachts from across the globe to this gorgeous subtropical corner of the North Island.
The race takes place in the dramatic Bay of Islands which boasts a total of 144 islands and inlets, providing some incredibly exciting opportunities for the course planners. Out of respect for the stunning natural environment where the race takes place, this year’s regatta will be celebrated as the first held with Clean Regatta certification. Measures include issuing reusable metal water bottles for every participant yacht and the ban of single use plastic bags to minimise the event’s environmental footprint.
Key entrants this year include the yachts Sassafras, Tawera and Silvertip who have been loyal supporters of the race for years as well as Thalia who lasted competed in 2009 and new entry Freya. Regular competitor 33.83 meter Silvertip was claimed the top prize twice, while the 28.1-meter Tawera underwent a recent refit in 2017 and is looking to make a comeback this year after winning first place in 2016 and 2017. The 34.2-meter Sassafras is a Royal Huisman build which has become a firm fixture at the event since her first entry in 2015. This year’s race is poised to be particularly exciting since the main five participants are incredibly evenly-matched and two, Freya and Thalia, are relatively unknown on the racing circuit.
If you’re planning to turn your Millennium Cup experience into a longer trip, don’t miss the ultra-luxury lodges in Northland which are set along some of the world’s most glorious coastline. Don’t miss the picturesque Helena Bay Lodge whose location was ranked second in “The World’s Top Rated Islands, Coastlines and Beaches” as rated by National Geographic Traveller Magazine. Another excellent option is Eagles Nest, a 75-acre estate which boasts five luxury lodges with exceptional views over the Bay of Islands. Four of the lodges here come with their own private heated infinity pools and you’ll also have on hand a personalized concierge service and talented resident chefs to cater to your every need.
This diverse corner of the North Island offers plenty of entertainment and activities to keep you occupied away from the racing. At the Kauri Cliffs lodge you’ll find a challenging golf course designed by David Harman with the sensational backdrop of the mighty Pacific Ocean. This coastline is also strewn with gorgeous untouched beaches where you could enjoy a lunch of New Zealand lamb and delicious local wines before visiting a local wine producer to learn more about the region’s exciting viticultural projects.
If you’re planning to fly in to meet your yacht, the closest international airport is Auckland. From there you have the option of a 40-minute flight to the Bay of Islands FBO airport, a 50-minute helicopter ride from the city of Auckland, or a three-hour drive. Those arriving by sea should report to the port of Opua which is the local port of entry where you will able to clear customs. Berthage is available during the event at dedicated anchor points and is included in the race entry fee. This should be pre-arranged with the yacht organizers prior to the event.