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Chitchat is minimal, as all hands are on deck. Ropes are pulled taut then swiftly uncoiled, mysterious terms and numbers are bellowed from port to starboard. There is a perpetual sense of urgency, and all eyes look upwards and all hearts soar when the wind catches at Revs' mighty, blustering sail. In its shadow, smaller vessels weave their way around the buoys marking the course: tiny 'trailer sailers' crewed by husband-and-wife teams, a vintage-looking sail boat with blue rigging, a sporty, orange-sailed catamaran.

It's the latter, Orange Peeler, that takes victory at the finish line, but the result seems almost irrelevant to the Revs crew. They are quickly absorbed into the bonhomie of the clubhouse, generously batting away my offers to get a round in. From a neighbouring kitchen hatch, portions of roasted pork belly with kumara (sweet potato), steak with chips, and battered local fish appear. Famished racers spill out onto the sundeck, plate in hand.

Sat at a table sinking a beer, Reece is elated. 'Words can't really explain the way I feel about sailing, but it's like a sun burning inside of me,' he says, his face flushed with boyish pleasure. 'I don't consider myself a spiritual person but it is sort of spiritual - there's something about the water that I'm drawn to. Ask anyone on the boat and they'll tell you the same.'

Born in Kent, Reece is, like many of New Zealand's immigrants, evangelical about the great outdoors. 'The Bay of Islands is so accessible - it's easy to explore, and there are lots of places you can drop anchor and be perfectly safe.' Oke Bay, about 11 miles from Russell, is one of Reece's favourite spots. 'I like to get out there with my wife or some friends and kick back. You can have a glass of wine, some scallops if you've been diving. You've got to be here, doing it, to know just how special this place is.'

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The article ‘All at sea in New Zealand’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.

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