Our America's Cup Connection

Posted 26 April 2012 by Wilson Team

Americas Cup

Our America's Cup Connection

It looks like our Vista Cruise has made a detour to the regattas.  There's a great story behind it.

The America's Cup race committee support boat, Regardless, is the sister ship of our own Abel Tasman Voyager that operates our Vista Cruise service in Abel Tasman National Park.

Building the Abel Tasman Voyager in 2007 was the result of over 30 years’ research and development to solve a traditional problem using modern technology.  The Abel Tasman coast has traditionally been a haven of mixed blessings for boats since the French explorer, Dumont D’Urville, first anchored in the lee of Adele Island in 1827, choosing the only safe anchorage he could find where his boat could float at low tide.

The topography at the top of the South Island means the coast is protected from most marine weather.  However large, shallow tidal estuaries and resistant granite reefs together with the highest tidal range in the country (up to 5.1 metres) make for tricky beach landings.  Before the coast was gazetted as a National Park in 1942, hardy seafarers and farmers timed their lives around the tides.

Today, visitors to the popular National Park are not prepared to wait for the tides.  The problem of providing fast, safe comfortable transport with minimal impact on the delicate coastal environment, together with the economics of unstable fuel prices and high maintenance costs from the effects of abrasive sand on equipment have always been a problem for tourism operators in the Park.

After 4 years of planning, and searching the world for the right hull form to meet the expectations of the modern traveller at an affordable price, the Wilsons found what they were looking for right here in New Zealand when they took Regardless on a test run. Designed by Catamarans International, Auckland, the hull was developed specifically for America’s Cup challenger support vessels.  

The latest research and technologies went into creating a hull with exceptional stability and fuel efficiency.  The shallow draft, essential for navigating the shallow estuaries of the Abel Tasman coast, was a co-incidental bonus resulting from the requirements for economy and comfortable sailing in a range of weather conditions. The Kevlar/fibreglass/foam composite hull requires less maintenance and its low weight requires less fuel at speed.  Passengers notice the quiet, comfortable ride provided by the noise absorption strength and stability of the composite hull.

As the mould was already built, Catamarans International were able to produce a hull in less than 3 months.  Upper decks and fitout were completed by Salthouse Boat Builders and the Abel Tasman Voyager was launched from Greenhithe on 4 December 2008 to be sailed to Nelson.

Marine & General Engineering in Nelson fitted the innovative front loading ramp system based on Wilson’s previous designs for their vessels.  The design allows for safe, convenient transfers from tidal beaches, eliminating the need for tender transfers.  

The Voyager is powered by two Environmental Protection Agency Tier 2 classified, 405 hp Cummins diesel engines, giving the Voyager a maximum speed of 20 knots.  The latest inverter/battery technology removes the need for a separate generator.

At 20 metres long with two viewing decks, including cafe/bar and toilets on the lower, covered deck, the Abel Tasman Voyager can carry 140 passengers.  Its speed and design allows improved itineraries with more time ashore for walking and kayaking options.  The new schedules are designed to minimize impacts on Marahau and Torrent Bay communities, and work towards achieving the aims of the Foreshore Management Plan for Abel Tasman National Park.

The success of the Abel Tasman Voyager continues the Wilson family’s reputation for revolutionising transport in the Park.  In 1977, they were pioneer tourism operators in the region when company co-founder, John Wilson, rowed passengers ashore from the Matangi, a launch he had built himself from native timbers. As the company has developed from operating a single launch passenger service into a multi-award winning business with guided sea kayaking, walks and Beachfront Lodges, the Abel Tasman Voyager continues the family’s commitment to sustainable tourism in Abel Tasman National Park.