She brought back a once mighty trimaran from the dead, and now the still green sailor Liz Alonzi is about to drive Timberwolf in one of the world-famous coastal yacht races.
Liz Alonzi affectionately calls her "Wolfy … with a Y" – the unmistakable light green trimaran with a growling wolf on the bow, which sits quietly in the harbor of Waitemata.
Together they will chase the leaders of the legendary Coastal Classic yacht race from Auckland to Russell on Friday.
It's still a fresh relationship. Just six years after learning to sail, 31-year-old Alonzi owns this 10.6-meter machine – once one of the fastest in New Zealand.
In the past six months, she has brought Timberwolf back "from almost dead" – she has spent hundreds of hours working on the multihull in addition to her work as a software engineer. It was a real love work.
At the same time, their determination and enthusiasm have rejuvenated an entire class of multihulls.
"I've been in love with her since I bought her. Despite all the weeds on her bum, she was the coolest boat," says Alonzi.
NZ Multihull Yacht Club's Commodore, Greer Houston, loved Alonzi's passion and was “thrilled” when she asked him to sail Timberwolf with her in the PIC Coastal Classic – a race the trimaran once won.
"It's very impressive what she's done," says Houston. "It's a pretty prestigious boat that hasn't had a lot of love, and it has been around quite a bit over the past few months.
“It's a big undertaking for someone who doesn't have a lot of sailing experience but is so willing to learn. And that has definitely got other people excited about the larger multihulls – so there's a pretty good turnout for the 10 meter boats this time around. It has this division of the race really regenerated. "
Liz Alonzi with her light green Timberwolf trimaran sits in the harbor of Waitemata. Photo: delivered.
Alonzi's sailing addiction goes further than Wolfy. She is a member of the committee of the NZ Multihull Yacht Club, which organizes the Coastal Classic, which is already in its 38th year.
And she's training to become a marshal at the America's Cup this summer at Hauraki Gulf. learn to set course markers for racing.
American-born Alonzi has been passionate about multihulls since moving to New Zealand in 2016. It was a brave move she took just because she wanted to sail.
When she was growing up, she didn't play a lot of sports but was always active. While studying at the University of Iowa – "In the Cornfields of America" - she started cycling and rode long distances on gravel roads.
“Then I lived in Chicago and started driving myself crazy in the concrete jungle. There isn't a lot of nature there – you have to hunt it, ”she says. In 2014 she started taking sailing lessons.
At the end of that summer, when the boats were being put away for the winter, Alonzi didn't want to stop sailing – so she headed to Australia for a six month yacht racing vacation.
After that, she was on a yacht delivery between Malaysia and Thailand when she had a chance meeting. “We stopped for dinner on another boat, and I met a woman who was a project manager for a software company that was also traveling,” recalls Alonzi.
"We were just talking over dinner and she said," If you really enjoy sailing and working in software, you should really just move to New Zealand. "My next plan was to sail the west coast of the US. New Zealand hadn't even crossed my mind.
"So I came here, went sailing one winter, got my first contract – and I knew I was here to stay."
Liz Alonzi goes to work fixing her Timberwolf trimaran at a cradle in Orakei. Photo: delivered.
Alonzi got her first impression of multihull sailing in Southeast Asia. "They're monsters, just so unforgiving," she says.
But she didn't hold back when a friend asked her to bring a 17.5m catamaran, Sundreamer, back to Auckland after the 2016 Coastal Classic. "I thought that was really cool," she says.
And so she learned to sail multihulls on the Gulf of Hauraki. She loved racing and the "jokes" in the fleet and then looked for a multi to call herself.
“When I started sailing I knew I wanted my own boat in five years. And I bought every third one! " She says. "I had a little keelboat – like a huge dinghy with an outboard motor – that was great to learn." But she kept her eyes peeled for a trimaran.
A terrible accident while sailing did not worry her. "I put a sail on the bow and I didn't look forward and the cat got into a trail and I was thrown," says Alonzi. “I landed under a compression beam and snapped at my fibula. It was crazy.
"I did it for a week before I had a tantrum for not going on the water."
The break also made them more determined to buy a multihull. In the morning the Cochrane-designed 10.6 m long trimaran was put up for sale. "I received text messages from several people to say she was listed."
Timberwolf was in a sad state. It hadn't moved away from its swing at the foot of the Auckland Harbor Bridge in 18 months. "The guy it belonged to loved the boat, but it no longer suited his life," she says.
Alonzi took on the challenge of bringing the 21-year-old boat back to its former glory as a three-time winner of the race from Auckland to Tauranga and as the winner of her multihull division at the Coastal Classic 2012.
She created a "54-point to-do list" for Wolfy. But then the country went to restricted level 4 and she got a new job at the start-up MATTR. Their plans to outsource have been put on hold.
“The lock was tough. I watched time go by knowing I had to get the boat to Cat 3 [safety regulations] by October 9th so we could sail the coast, ”says Alonzi, whose Instagram name was“ The girl and her wolf "is.
She worked on the boat for at least five hours a day for five weeks, even after her regular eight-hour job.
The first task on her list was to scrape bad stuff off the bottom of the hulls for three hours with the help of a sailing friend before lifting the tri out of the water. This turned into a nightmare when there was no cradle for her in town and she had to buy wood to modify one herself.
Then came 90 hours to scrape off the old antifouling paint; Alonzi did 50 of them. “It was super toxic. I was wearing a respirator, but my skin was still getting horrible, ”she says. She then repainted the hulls for over 20 hours.
She worked on the boat's electrics, repaired a leak in the stern, and learned how to use fiberglass to repair a crack in the cockpit floor.
When a winch tore off the deck the first time she sailed Timberwolf, she had the entire winch setup replaced. The boat builder Bob Fisher helped with the understanding that he could sail on the coast with Alonzi – he is one of her three male crew members.
Alonzi is grateful to the 16 or so volunteers who helped her. There was a sense of accomplishment and relief when she received her safety certificate which was used to race that weekend.
Although she can't stand driving boats, she's still looking forward to leading Wolfy across the starting line off Devonport on Friday morning – in her fifth Coastal Classic.
"I've been on the foredeck since the start of the race – lie on the bow and I'm super happy. When driving you have to concentrate and you can't move. I get so nervous," she laughs. "But it's my big deal now to get the rudder to get confident. "
Houston says the crew will encourage Alonzi to stay at the helm. “The best part about having your own boat is driving it,” he says.
"I said I think you should definitely drive the boat at the start and finish. Those are the best parts of the race.
"She's so keen to make the boat go faster – she wants to win. And she's not afraid to search people's brains, which is a good quality."
Alonzi's goal in this race is not necessarily to win. The forecast – 10 knots from the northeast – will not make the strong fleet of 176 boats break racing records.
“If the prediction plays ball, I just want to sail better than ever before. I'm still so green with it – which is weird because the boat is green, ”she says. "I just don't have to lose focus while I'm at the helm.
"I'm still flying past the seat of my pants."
* A livestream of the PIC Coastal Classic can be followed from the racing website Coastalclassic.co.nz