Large fleet contests Port Otago Dunedin Festival Regatta

29er’s racing on Otago Harbour during the Dunedin Festival Regatta
Martin Balch

The largest fleet for many years, 69 yachts, ranging from the tiny Opti’s through to keelers faced the starter’s signals on Dunedin’s Otago harbour at the weekend.

The new regatta formula introduced by The Otago yachting Association for their annual regatta proved most successful judging by competitors comments and the large turnout a the prizegiving.

Special guest YNZ Board Member Ralph Roberts as an ambassador was on the water both days observing the running of the racing and on his return to shore each day held impromptu and very popular rules training sessions with many of the younger sailors.

Gary Griffith heading for the finishing line after capsizing meters from the finish as the wind changed at the Dunedin Festival of Sail regatta. 03 Starlings coming down the final lead. 05 Richard Hawkins and team on Reprieve – extended Elder 680
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Sailed as part of the regatta were the South Island 29er championships and Hobie 16 Otago championships. The title being narrowly won by local crew Peter Graham and Iain Begg from Auckland visitors, Italians Riccard Camin and Lorenzo Franceschini.

The junior events went to Robert McCormack in the Opti’s, and Robert Soper in the P Class after a very close battle with Freya Griffith.

Starlings coming down the final lead at the Dunedin Festival regatta.
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Richard Hawkins added yet another trophy to his shelf, this time with his extended Elder 680 Reprieve while the old master Allan Todd left running the races to others and sailed Jjasca to success in the keelers.

Northerly winds gave good sailing on Saturday while a line squall on Sunday made life more interesting. The wind change to 25 knot south-westerlies for mid afternoon hit hours early and recorded 52 knots at Taiaroa Heads.

Richard Hawkins and team on Reprieve – extended Elder 680 at the Dunedin Festival regatta
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After the squall cleared and racing had resumed, Roberts expressed amazement at the skills and seamanship of the local sailors and officials in getting all boats safely ashore after watching in amazement as a williwaw of spray tore through the fleet still on the water. With advance warning from radio stations to the south, many yachts were already safely ashore. An hour later, in a dying southerly on the back of the squall racing was successfully completed in some of the best winds of the day.