2011 New Zealand OK Dinghy Nationals
New Zealand OK Dinghy National Championship is down to its final races and it looks as if Wakatere’s Russell Woods is closing in on the title after taking a bullet in the fourth heat and second in the fifth for five points. Ben Morrison is seeing his chance of defending his title fading away after getting 12 point over five races while Matt Stechmann rounded out the top-three.
The fourth heat got underway in a solid 20 knot Northerly with some nice 20 degree shifts. The race started with a minimum of fuss and half way up the first leg the usual suspects had gathered to slug it out. At the top Woods was in front by a small margin, a mass bunch of 8 boats come round together and the peleton quickly gathered in Woods. Now a 9 boat pack no one could escape and as the gybe mark loomed voices started to rise with claims for room.
Ade Mannering on the inside lead at the turn, with Luke O’Connell sneaking round second, and Morrison third. Once again the boats bunched up, and the bottom mark was an action replay of the wing. Amongst plenty of chatter O’Connell snuck up the inside and lead the charge into the second work, with Rhodes snapping at his heels, Nige Mannering rounded third with Morrison and Woods on his outside. The second work turned into a drag race to the left and Woods turned on the power sailing to pull away. At the top he rounded with a 30 second cushion to Morrison and the rest of the pursuing pack. With the breeze coming down in big bands the pack once again formed up and chased down Woods, the bottom pin loomed up just in time for Woods who lead the rush hour through the gate.
The breeze still in the 20s Woods slowly stretched away helped by the fact the pack all seemed happy to sail in the same part of the ocean as one another. At the line Woods was 20 seconds clear from Morrison who charged late, Nige Mannering hit the last shift to perfection and slipped across Rhodes bow on the line, Stechmann took O’Connell and Ade Mannering late to secure fifth.
The fifth heat got under way in a solid 22 knots of Northwester. A the leeward end Stechmann made a perfect pin end start and quickly jumped out into clear air, on his hip Morrison, Rhodes and Woods were all away clear. Sailing low and fast Stechmann hit the first shift tacked and easily cleared the fleet. Woods tacked to leeward and the Morrison, Rhodes combo went fine on the hip, with their left hand leverage these 4 quickly opened up a sizeable gap and after working a couple of small shift to the left settled down to a long port tack drag.
At the top Stechmann lead by a length from Woods and Morrison, Rhodes rounded a further 20 seconds back. As is normally the case the rich got richer and these 4 took off on a nice breeze line to leave the remainder of the fleet in their wake. At the gybe Stechmann had opened up a 30 second gap to Woods, who now had Morrison for company. The second reach was a fast affair and at the bottom the lead was out to 45 seconds. Stechmann tacked early, Morrison followed his line and Woods took the high ground as has been the case all regatta.
Woods turned on the grunt and slowly but surely eased away from Morrison and gathered in Stechmann. At the top Woods had closed into a length behind with Morrison now a minute and a half back. Down the run Stechmann kicked 30 seconds clear and with the breeze moderating Woods’ advantage up the work was negated. Stechmann covered Woods who in turn kept Morrison in check and all 3 found them self out on the left hand lay-line. Stechmann crossed 45 seconds clear, Woods took second to cap another great day and Morrison would have been happy to add the third to his earlier second.
With a lay-day scheduled for the following day the fleet retired to the club for a few cold ones. The legendary Rum Bucket made an appearance, Joe Porebski and Nige Mannering kept the boys amused with some great OK stories from regattas past. A BBQ will be taking place at Ade and Rose Mannering’s lovely Clive orchard with model boating on Lake Mannering.
With a light easterly forecast for the final 2 heats there will be plenty of twists and turns to come. In true OK fashion Russell is having to fend off plenty of good humoured banter trying to unsettle the big fella. Stay tuned for the final days racing report to see who will be crowned the 50th OK Dinghy Champion of New Zealand.