by Andy Greager
Start sequence of the skiffs with Russell in the background - HARKEN Labour Weekend Regatta
A mixed fleet of skiffs, catamarans and single handed dinghies got together this weekend for the annual HARKEN Labour Weekend Regatta at the Bay of Islands Yacht Club. Everyone enjoyed the three days in the Bay of Islands.
In contrast to the fun reaches on Saturday, the course races on Sunday and Monday suffered from light and shifty winds.
On Saturday, the Bay Race was sending the fleet around the harbour in glorious sunshine. This time, an especially interesting feature was a cruise ship that was anchored in the middle of the bay. In addition to the natural reefs, the sailors also had to negotiate around the finish line of the Coastal Classic race.
Everyone started together inside Ti Bay. Some of the competitors took advantage of the closeness of the start line and waited to launch until only 20 minutes before the start.
On the short upwind leg after the start, Russ Evans showed superior speed on his Musto skiff and was the first to get his gennaker up. However the Javelin with Craig Gilberd and Antje Muller on board managed to gybe quicker and got ahead because they could point higher on the tight reach out to Brampton Buoy. The gennakers came up and down several times on that leg across the fleet .
The mixed fleet in front of the Waitangi golf course - HARKEN Labour Weekend Regatta
From Brampton to Russell, several skiffs tried to carry gennakers and ended up way downwind of the cruise ship which means they had to go close hauled to the mark, while the catamarans were quickly catching up on the tight reach.
On the leg to the Southern Channel Beasons, the Nacra 5.8 sailed by Tim Bradley and Sean Patterson took the lead off Full Frontal, and Russ also got past them. It was the first race for the yellow Hobie 16 which was looking good for a time to make the top three, but they capsized and could not recover.
The fleet cruised up to the Northern Channel Beacons, buffeted at times by vicious gusts. On the beat to the finish, the Nacra 5.8 extended their lead, but Craig and Antje managed to claw their way back into second place, finishing in front of Russ.
A single Laser made it around the course as well, and Doug Kane was hoping for more single-handed dinghies to join the course races on Sunday and Monday.
Diversity: Matt Haase in his Europe Dinghy and Fiona Joyce and Stephanie Long in their Hobie 16 catamaran - HARKEN Labour Weekend Regatta
On Sunday, the start was scheduled for 11am and the fleet made it to the race area in time, but the breeze died and did not settle in completely again after that. The first race was abandoned after several major wind shifts mixed the fleet up. Race Officer Paddy Simms managed to get another start away in the fickle winds that shifted through all points of the compass.
The skiffs had a few nice gennaker runs on their windward leeward course, and the holes and puffs allowed for many passing lanes. Full Frontal managed to lead start to finish, however the single-handed skiffs were close behind with Neil McCallum finishing second and Russ Evans in third. Special mention should be made of David Brown sailing his Javelin single-handed on this light day because the crew did not turn up.
The single handed dinghies battled it out on a trapezoid course. While Doug managed to finish with an extensive lead, the two Europe dinghies in his fleet fought closely for second place, which in the end went to the more experienced Matt Haase in front of McKayla Holloway who only started to sail last autumn.
In the catamaran fleet, Zane Blomfield and Sean Turnbull managed to sneak their Hobie 16 into the finish before the much larger Nacra 5.8 with Fiona Joyce and Stephanie Long making it to third place.
The last race of the day was abandoned after several major wind shifts.
Between sailing and waiting it was a long day on the water, so the curry dinner put on by the Super-Grans at the Club was well received. For desert, the fantastic HARKEN spot prizes were drawn. Of course the evening entertainment was provided for with most of the fleet gathering at the Marquee in Paihia to watch the Rugby World Cup Final.
This skiff was not meant to be sailed by only one person - HARKEN Labour Weekend Regatta
Thankfully for any sore limbs and heads, there was only very little wind on Monday. The Race Committee had mercy on the sailors and sent them back to shore after less than two hours of waiting for any sailable wind to settle in.
Two races were not enough to establish a series, but fabulous sunshine and summer temperatures made up for it.
As always, it has been a pleasure for everyone to escape to the beautiful Bay of Islands, and organiser Andy Greager is looking forward to welcoming both the regulars as well as anyone other small boat sailors to join the fun next year.
For details on other events run by the Bay of Island Yacht Club, please refer to the Club Website www.boiyachtclub.co.nz.
Many thanks to sponsors HARKEN and Opua Port Supply who have been generously supporting this event for several years now, and thanks also to the volunteers and officials who make this regatta possible.
Musto skiffs flying their colourful gennakers - HARKEN Labour Weekend Regatta
Everything was ready except the breeze - HARKEN Labour Weekend Regatta
Relaxing in the sun while waiting for the wind - HARKEN Labour Weekend Regatta
Downtime between races is a good time to have a chat - HARKEN Labour Weekend Regatta
Launching into the Waitangi River - HARKEN Labour Weekend Regatta