life downunder

Josh Tucker (Boo-Boo) is one of the coolest dudes ever, and has been a faithful contributor to SA over the years with some of the best stories ever. Welcome back dude!

With the great ‘Ho Down’ taking all the sailing media and forum talk from downunder, little old NZ flies under the radar but still ticks along with plenty going on and some huge events coming up.

Shorthanded handed sailing in NZ is going from strength to strength and the upcoming 2 handed race around New Zealand makes the Sydney Hobart look like a walk in the park. 7 boats are now signed up for the event starting on the 16th of February that takes the boats on a 4 Leg 2100nm circumnavigation of New Zealand’s North and South Islands and deep down into the southern ocean. Check it out.

Run by the legends at the Shorthanded Sailing Association of NZ (SSANZ) who have made the 2 handed sailing scene what it is today by putting races like this on. They do a damn fine job and have fun doing it.

In the Round NZ race we have a strong fleet of 35-40fters. 2 Farr 38s, a Sunfast 3600, Pogo 40, 2 35ft Elliotts, and a Stomp 38. Should be some close and exciting racing. Im sure the SSANZ boys will be doing an official write up at some stage and get it out to the media and we will be updating our facebook page regularly during the race.

For many like us this race is actually just a warm up for the infamous Round North island (RNI) 2 handed race in 2020, it seems strange to take on a race like this as a build-up event for a shorter race, but the RNI is the one everyone wants to win. With a maximum entry number for the RNI restricted to 30 boats due to constraints with berthage for the stopovers, the race is always over subscribed with New Zealands top offshore boats and sailors. With names like Sir Peter Blake on trophies and over 40 years of history there is a huge element of prestige associated with the event.

After being out of the racing scene for the last one and a half years, sailing our boat down to NZ from France with the family and an unbelievable 1 week turn around to handover to the new owner upon arrival in NZ. I’m straight back into it purchasing an older but heavily modified Elliott 35 now named Motorboat II in partnership with Damon Joliffe who was my crew for our last successful RNI overall PHRF total corrected time win on board the Sun Fast 3600. We have been sailing together since doing the 1997 Sydney Hobart as a couple of teenagers 21 years ago, with much in between including tormenting the New Zealand race fleet with good results on (and off) the water and loud obnoxious music all night to rub it in afterwards…. True Anarchy Style.

For me personally its been a huge couple of years. Resigning at my sailmaking job of 18 years with North Sails, selling everything in NZ, packing our lives into a few bags and taking our 4, 6 and 8 years old boys to France to jump on board our newly purchased, sight unseen 50ft yacht. From there it was the most amazing year and a half of sailing, covering a total of 16000nm and 28 countries without a single tack- true story. 3 months in the Med, 5 months in the Caribbean and 5 months through the pacific. Our trip took us to some far out of reach places like Cape Verde Islands, Cocos island in Costa Rica, Suwarrow in the northern Cook islands as well as all the standard stop offs along the way like Galapagos islands, the Mt Gay factory tour in Barbados, Divisional win in the Heineken Regatta and round Tortola Race and many social gatherings on ‘Rogue’, our aptly named 2007 Beneteau Oceanis 50.

The coolest thing about the mission was involving the family and really getting to know our 3 energetic and enthusiastic boys on a voyage that tested their (and our) boundaries to the maximum extent. A lifetime worth of memories made and a good base layer of world and life experience to broaden their minds. What could ever be a more fun adventure to take the family on, 1.5 years of literally sailing into the sunset.

I can tell you there was simply no greater feeling than sitting with my family watching the coast of NZ slowly appear over the horizon after an epic adventure such as this.

I was always not completely sure what to do on my return to NZ- stick in the sail making business, or try something new. Then I got a message from Rodney Keenan from Evolution sails who I did my sailmaking apprenticeship with in the 90s. He came to me with a proposal and with it a challenge to help grow the already booming business and take it to the next level. With a massive new loft and full membrane laminating plant just down the road, it certainly had its appeal. More control of the product, flexibility with the ability to turn a sail around from raw fibre to a completed sail quickly and efficiently, and a great bunch of talented and motivated sailmakers- many of whom I have worked with in the past.

I got my first taste of the membrane plant when I laminated up a new #2 Jib for my own boat over the summer holidays with the help of my sailing obsessed 8 year old son. I went for the fully cocked, 80% carbon-20% aramid, liteskin membrane. It certainly looks the part and based on what I have seen, it will have the performance and durability to match the good looks. Membranes like mine get shipped out of here all around the world on a regular basis, and in the 6 weeks since I have been here the membrane plant and loft have both been running nearly 24/7 to keep up with the demand.

It’s a product that is world class and I’m proud to be involved.  Is this the next Evolution of my life – certainly looks like it….