by Sven Pannell
2014 Champions, Alex Vallings and Fraser Brown - 12ft Skiff Interdominions, Day 6, Worser Bay, Wellington, NZ
New Zealand has resoundingly beaten Australia in the 12' Skiff Interdominions, the world's premiere 12' skiff regatta. Just quietly, it was a bit of a 'downtrou' at 404 points to 236.
Kiwis Alex Vallings/Fraser Brown, Glen Armstrong/Roger Barnes and Russell Davis/Jonno Clough took out first, second and third place respectively in a very one-sided regatta. It showed a depth of talent and technology that puts the small nation firmly atop the 12' skiff sailing world for now.
Alex 'Ginge' Vallings, with this 12' win to add to victory in the 18s in San Francisco's Nespresso Mark Foy regatta, has asserted his dominance in the skiff racing world. But Ginge's sixth Interdominions win (2 as crew and 4 steering) was not plain sailing. It was secured in typical 12' style – blasting to retain victory by a fingernail in the last gybe, of the last leg, of the final race, of a ten race regatta.
It has been a while between chocolates in the Inters for Vallings, four years in the wind shadow of rival Nick Press of Sydney. But Vallings has struck back decisively to end Press' remarkable four year winning streak and put the stunning Silasec Trophy back in the trophy cabinet at C-Tech.
The number of overall lead changes this week show just how competitive the class has become and how closely these two-man rocketships are matched. Pipped at the line, local Wellingtonian skipper, Glen Armstrong took silver by a narrow 4 points across 10 races. This was Armstrong's highest result in 18 years of competition in this regatta, proving some things get better with age.
Aucklander Russell Davis takes home bronze after a very consistent regatta, especially in the heavier airs, blocking out all Australians from the podium with his career high result.
The depth of the Kiwi fleet had the Australians outgunned in Wellington from the first five minute warning. A few top Australian boats remained on the warmer side of the Tasman this summer, which clearly hurt the team. They will need to be out in force to win back the trophy. With Sydney hosting this time next year, there will be no excuses.
12' skiffs are the secret thrill of some of the Antipodes' better sailors, both professionals and hobbyists. Nevertheless, it amazes that more of the big guns don't test their mettle in the class. What really distinguishes these absurdly overpowered swordfish of the sailing world? It is taming the untamable. Once you've done it, other boats don't feel the same any more.
There is little that can match the adrenal surge of hanging out on the wire, sheeting on as a puff builds and sends you at 25 knots up a wave … then the steely focus brought about when both your centreboard and your rudder lose contact with the water, and some other guy is feet behind you, also on the edge of control and hell-bent on getting rounding the bottom mark first.
Add the physicality of managing so much rag on so small a hull, the tactics of tight racing, the opportunity to tinker that an open class allows, and for some all for the price of a new laser. It makes great sense and more good young dinghy and keelboat racers should be encouraged into it.
This year's regatta had it all. From nuking fourth rig to flukey first; from deft tactics to 'shut up and hold on' guts; from on the water duelling to off the water mahem; from broken boats to broken bones. But it had one clear winner. New Zealand sits atop the 12' skiffing world this year. Bring on Sydney, Jan 2015.
Full results are available at www.skiff.org.nz. The 12‘ Skiff Interdominions have been held between New Zealand and Australian teams since 1956. The 54th regatta was hosted by Worser Bay Boating Club in Wellington, NZ from fourth to 11th January, 2014. The event and the New Zealand team was supported by Maersk shipping, North Sails, Seaview Sails and Rigging, MG Composites,C-Tech, Amstore Print and superbly photographed by Garrick Cameron – Studio5.