Optimist nationals to raise the bar for sailing and sustainability

The countdown is on to the Toyota 2023 Optimist National, to be held here on the North Shore over Easter. Hosted by Wakatere Boating Club on Narrow Neck Beach, this is New Zealand’s premier junior yachting event, which will see the next generation of sailing talent battle it out on the Hauraki Gulf. More than 200 young sailors from across New Zealand and from Australia, New Caledonia and Tahiti will come together for this action-packed event and make new friendships off the water.


Wakatere Boating Club Commodore Julia Faire says the regatta goals are fair racing, participation, inclusion, forging friendships, and sustainability.


“As well as the competition on the water, which will see New Zealand’s top young sailing talent go head to head, what makes the regatta extra special is the programme of activities off the water. This have been designed to connect young sailors and educate them about protecting the environment they live, play and compete in.”

The programme of activities includes a beach clean-up, ocean conservation education, a second chance sailing gear collection, free reef-safe sunblock refills, running a paperless race management system, serving food in eco packaging, using specially-installed water tanks for boat washdown and even reimagining the race bibs.

In a New Zealand first, the Wakatere club has replaced the single use race bibs usually worn at sailing events, by working with LUCKE, an award-winning sustainable clothing business co-founded by Narrow Neck resident Garth Ellingham. LUCKE has produced reusable race bibs made out of recycled PET bottles. These have been branded for the event and will be worn by each competitor for the duration of the regatta.

LUCKE’s Garth Ellingham said Wakatere Boating Club challenged the company to create buoyancy covers with as little environmental impact as possible.

“To achieve this, we produced a quality garment with a custom design that has been future-proofed by Toyota for annual event use. This order utilised 3000 bottles that would have otherwise ended up in landfill. The plastic bottles were cleaned, sorted, and shredded into pellets, which were then melted into fibre. And, through our commitment to 1% For The planet, we're proud to say that 73 trees were planted for this order.”

Delayne Salthouse, Wakatere’s sustainability champion and two-time recipient of the Yachting New Zealand Sustainability Award, spearheaded Wakatere’s environmental journey. This began in 2018 as the first club in New Zealand to run regattas under the Sailors for the Sea Clean Regatta programme. It has evolved into Wakatere Boating Club being recognised as a Yachting New Zealand 3-star Clean Club, an initiative endorsed by the New Zealand SailGP Team led by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.

“The Toyota 2023 Optimist Nationals is a certified ‘Clean Regatta‘ and we are aiming to achieve the highest ‘platinum’ certification which is awarded at the end of the event,” said Delayne. “This means everything we do to run this event is done with the environment in mind.”

Recycled sailing gear will feature with a second chance sailing gear collection taking place on Thursday 6 April at registration. Club members and visiting competitors can donate quality, unwanted sailing gear that could use a second chance. Wakatere will work closely with Yachting New Zealand, which runs this programme, to ensure the gear finds its way to those sailors around the country who could really use it.

Another ‘Clean Regatta’ activity during the Toyota 2023 Optimist Nationals is the beach clean-up. Wakatere has partnered with local group, the Clean Up Crew to coordinate this event, which will take place on Saturday 8 April at 8.30am.

Education is another key focus, and children will be invited to participate in a range of activities designed to teach them about ocean conservation.  The Sir Peter Blake-inspired ocean-conservation programme, Blake Inspire, will use virtual reality headsets to take children beneath the surface and learn more about protecting the ocean, while Revive Our Gulf will be on hand to talk about its mussel regeneration programme which aims to help restore the once vast acres of mussel reefs back into the Hauraki Gulf.

When it comes to sustenance, the Toyota 2023 Optimist Nationals have got it covered. All food served at the event will be sustainable, and eco-packaging will be used to minimise waste. New Zealand brand ‘goodbye’ is donating every competitor a tin of its SPF50 reef-friendly sun balm and offering free refills over the course of the event.  It’s a wonderful example of how small changes can make a big difference when it comes to sustainability.

Toyota's partnership of the event as a major sponsor stretches back almost two decades and is a testament to the company's commitment to sustainability and its support of the sailing community in New Zealand. It has also backed Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) for more than 30 years, a partnership that has allowed the company to explore new and innovative ways to use carbon-neutral technology.

One example of this is the hydrogen fuel cell technology that Toyota supplies to ETNZ, which provides the power behind their chase boat. This innovative technology is being explored by Toyota as a way to decarbonise key New Zealand industry including heavy freight and commercial vehicles. An example of this is the Toyota Mirai, a Toyota Hydrogen car which will be on display at the regatta.


Overall, the Toyota 2023 Optimist Nationals promises to be an incredible event, bringing together hundreds of keen young sailors from across New Zealand and further afield. With a focus on fair competition, friendships and sustainability, it's a fantastic opportunity to showcase the importance of taking care of our environment, while also celebrating the next generation of sailing talent.

“We all have a responsibility to take care of our oceans and coastlines, and this event is a wonderful way to empower our young sailors to do just that,” said Commodore Julia Faire. “Wakatere can’t wait to welcome competitors and their families for what is set to be an action-packed regatta both on and off the water.”

The Toyota 2023 Optimist Nationals, Thursday 6 – Monday 10 April

Narrow Neck Beach, Devonport