by Brett Hobson
Nick Press and Andrew Stevenson sailed Gemmell Sailmakers to victory in the 12ft Skiff Interdominion Championships over the New Year period. The win brings up a hat-trick of victories for Nick, who won the last two events aboard his normal boat Dimension Polyant.
To make the win even more impressive, it is the first time that Nick and Andrew have teamed up, the first time Andrew has crewed at a regatta, and all in a borrowed boat.
A smaller than usual contingent of 12’s contended the event, but there was no shortage of top boats with 6 time champion Tim Bartlett in the mix, along with recent Auckland champion’s C-tech (Chris Reid and Ben De Fluiter), Australian crews of Garde (Brett Hobson and Alex Johnson) and the renamed skiff of JJ Robertson (Adam Forbes and Richard Johns).
The regatta started off well for Gemmell Sailmakers, taking out the invitation race and heat 1, all sailed in a 25-30knot north east breeze with large waves caused by wind against tide. The breeze took its toll on most crews for heat 3, and when Gemmell had a capsize they finish fifth. Garde finished first with C-Tech second.
The breeze swung to the south west for heats 3 and 4, but remained fresh. The first race of the day was postponed on shore for two hours as the wind was gusting above 35knots. When the breeze dropped and the racing got underway, it was the C-Tech crew who got the jump on the fleet and went on to record their only win of the series. Gemmell were not far off the pace to pick up a third place. In heat 4 it was another kiwi crew that blasted up the first work, that of Tim Bartlett in Frankinskiff, to put a good lead on the fleet at the first mark, and go on to take the win. Gemmell Sails had a swim at the bottom mark rounding during the race to put them back in fifth place.
For heats 5 and 6 the breeze went back into the North East, and was a bit lighter than the previous days, with most crews opting for second rig. Gemmell Sails got a bullet in heat 5 and when tragedy struck the kiwi crew of Absolute CNC (the eyelet pulled out of the head of their spinnaker) in heat 6, Garde found themselves in the lead down the run to the finish. Gemmell would get a second place.
Heats 7 and 8 were sailed in a similar breeze, however the morning started off lighter and meant most skiffs went with their big rig. Tim Bartlett showed exceptional speed to lead both races before having a capsize and losing their spinnaker meaning they were soon back in the pack. In heat 7, Gemmell would pick up another win, followed by C-Tech and JJ Robertson having a stellar race finished in third. All skiffs sailing exceptionally well to get their big rigs around the course.
In heat 8 it was the Ugly Stick crew of Simon Ganly and Rod Shave’s time to shine, and pick up their first heat win in an Interdominion. After having gear failure in heat 7 and forced retirement, they came out for heat 8 with their second rig and showed true speed. C-Tech finished second, just holding out Gemmell in third and Garde in fourth who had also changed down to second rig.
Heat 9 was sailed in a very light and shifty Northerly breeze, and meant the fleet was working into a heavy tide. C-Tech lead for most of the day before falling in a hole on the way to the wing mark, for the final time. This allowed Gemmell to overtake and take the heat win.
Gemmell Sails just need to stay within two places of C-Tech to finish off the regatta, and they looked to be doing all the right things off the start, to lead at the top mark.
They were never headed from there and went on to record their fifth win of the series, enough to claim victory overall from C-Tech by five points with Garde a further four points back.
New Zealand won back the teams trophy, but not after a strong fight back from the Aussie team.
Skiff Australia website
Skiff New Zealand website