Purdie takes OK Nationals in Gisborne

Peter Robinson, Alistair Deaves and Rob Hengst reaching home

Last Thursday the New Zealand OK fleet arrived at Gisborne for the 2011 OK Nationals, which have not been held there for a number of decades.

This represents part of the OK fleet’s on-going growth in New Zealand and willingness to hold national championships outside of the traditional OK strongholds of Auckland, Napier and Wellington. That will continue in 2012 with the first South Island OK nationals in many years to be held at Lyttelton Yacht Club.

Once again the fleet was very strong, although at 29 it was reduced somewhat from 2010’s pre-worlds nationals in Wellington. Current World Champion Karl Purdie (Wellington) had been training at the venue for the best part of a week leading up to the contest, and was clearly determined to defend his national title from 2010. Luke O’Connell (Wellington) led the 2010/2011 NZ OK ranking series going into the nationals, and other strong contenders included current 2010 Worlds bronze medallist Matt Steven (Wellington) and former national champions Ben Morrison (Auckland), Russell Pagewood (Auckland), Paul Rhodes (Wellington) and Steve McDowell (Wellington).

This year’s event was shared with the NZ Javelin Nationals, which as it turned out did not affect proceedings noticeably, there being only 6 Javelins competing.

The forecast was generally for strong winds and Friday did not disappoint, producing a brisk Northerly averaging 20 knots with the occasional 30 knot gust. Race 1 started just after 1.00pm and Karl Purdie quickly took the lead and extended throughout the race to notch up a solid win, followed by Matt Steven and Auckland’s Brad Douglas. It was apparent early on that, while the race area looked fairly featureless at first glance, there were plenty of shifts and holes to play with – and the middle of the track was not paying. Race 2 was sailed in similar conditions, with Purdie dominating once more and some erratic results coming from others in the fleet. Steven found himself stuck in the wrong corner and finished ninth, while Auckland’s Andrew Pardington and Russell Pagewood sailed a solid race to take second and third respectively with Douglas in fourth. After Day 1 Purdie held the lead with Douglas in second and Ben Morrison in third (having carded a fourth and a fifth).

Karl Purdie

Day 2 began in somewhat lighter conditions than Day 1, and a shifty, patchy 5-15 knot northerly provided some extremely testing sailing throughout the three races of the day.

Race 3 was a cracker in which Douglas, Purdie and Pagewood battled furiously for the lead throughout. Douglas took an early lead and defended brilliantly under heavy pressure from Pagewood and Purdie to lead across the finish, only to find he had been over early at the start. Pagewood executed some smart tactical sailing to take Purdie at the death and take the race, while Luke O’Connell finished third.

In Race 4 the veteran Nigel Mannering, after struggling on Day 1 with his new WB sail from Finland, finally worked out how to tune it and led the entire race to take a precious nationals race victory. Immediately the word went out – 'could this finally be Nige’s year??'. However, that seemed unlikely as Purdie, O’Connell and Steven took second, third and fourth respectively. Once again the Worser Bay OK machine was beginning to showing its dominance, while erratic performances from the Aucklanders were not helping the Wakatere cause with Douglas sixth, Morrison seventh, Pagewood 11th and Pardington 12th. The Wellington form continued in Race 5’s light and fluky conditions, with O’Connell and McDowell showing solid upwind strategy and excellent downwind technique to finish first and second, followed by Auckland’s light air specialist Alistair Deaves in third.

On Saturday evening, after the 2011 NZOKDA Annual General Meeting, Gisborne Yacht Club produced a magnificent BBQ dinner and the fleet then returned to the event sponsor Emerald Hotel for spa pools and a quiet Gisborne Gold or two. With everyone being fairly focused on the final day of competition, festivities were quite restrained – this may also have had something to do with the 25-35 knot Southerly that was expected to arrive the next morning.

Sunday dawned rainy and still, with ominous black clouds on the Southern horizon and a number of tired, nervous OK sailors hanging around the yacht club wondering what the day would bring. As it turned out, the big breeze never eventuated although a moderate sou-wester built as we made our way out onto the course. Race 6 started in around 16 knots and Douglas and Morrison shot out to an early lead, only to be cruelly punished halfway up the beat when all the early tackers hooked into a massive right-hand shift and powered to the top mark led by Purdie. Douglas had been far enough advanced to still hold onto second around the first mark, and he and Purdie commenced a tight battle. Unfortunately for them, the battle was so tight that halfway up the second beat, tacking up the middle of the track, they failed to spot Steven, O’Connell, McDowell, Rhodes, Morrison and Pagewood well out to the right and once again in a big right-hand pressure line. Those six carried on to finish in that order, followed by Douglas and Purdie in seventh and eighth.

Six OKs round the bottom mark in mid-fleet

Going into the final race, Purdie held a slim lead over Steven and O’Connell and the regatta was wide open. The wind continued to strengthen and veer right, and Pagewood rounded the top mark first, followed by Pardington and Steven. By the bottom mark positions had changed somewhat and Steven held a slim lead over Purdie and McDowell, with O’Connell close behind. It all came down to the final run, where Purdie sailed a very good leg to pass Steven and hold his lead up the short beat to the finish and take his second national title. Steve finished the race second and McDowell was third.

In the final analysis, Purdie was a deserving winner with Steven second, O’Connell third, McDowell fourth and Morrison fifth. The Worser Bay sailors were clearly dominant, taking out 6 of the top 10 spots, with Wakatere taking fifth, sixth and seventh and only one Napier sailor scraping in at 10th.

We would like to thank Gisborne YC for hosting a fine regatta, Emerald Hotel for providing excellent accommodation at great rates, and all the competitors for making the trip and giving it their best.

Full results set out below.

1 Karl Purdie Worser Bay BC 1 1 2 2 5 8 1 12
2 Matt Steven Worser Bay BC 2 9 3 4 4 1 2 16
3 Luke O'Connell Worser Bay BC 5 6 4 3 1 2 5 20
4 Steve McDowell Worser Bay BC 9 7 6 5 2 3 3 26
5 Ben Morrison Wakatere BC 4 5 9 7 12 5 6 36
6 Russell Pagewood Wakatere BC 8 3 1 11 16 6 10 39
7 Andrew Pardington Wakatere BC 6 2 7 12 7 18 7 41
8 Matt Stechman Worser Bay BC 7 8 10 8 15 10 30 58
9 Paul Rhodes Worser Bay BC 30 30 5 9 8 4 4 60
10 Nigel Mannering Napier SC 11 12 8 1 18 15 14 61
11 Alistair Deaves Wakatere BC 15 16 12 19 3 12 8 66
12 Rob Hengst Napier SC 12 13 15 10 6 20 12 68
13 Brad Douglas Wakatere BC 3 4 30 6 19 7 30 69
14 Owen Anderson Worser Bay BC 10 10 14 13 14 11 11 69
15 Trent Pryce Napier SC 13 11 13 17 10 17 30 81
16 Peter Robinson Drummoyne SC 14 18 17 15 11 22 9 84
17 Marty Weeks Napier SC 16 14 16 14 17 13 13 86
18 Jono Clough Worser Bay BC 20 17 19 22 13 9 15 93
19 Chris Fenwick Napier SC 19 22 21 18 9 16 17 100
20 Joe Porebski Worser Bay BC 17 19 11 16 22 21 30 106
21 Adrian Coulthard Napier SC 22 20 18 20 20 14 18 110
22 Brett Graham Wakatere BC 21 15 23 21 24 19 16 115
23 Martin Pike Napier SC 18 21 20 23 23 30 30 135
24 Evert Nijzink Napier SC 30 30 22 24 21 30 30 157
25 Nigel Comber Wakatere BC 30 30 30 25 25 30 30 170
26 Josh Weeks Napier SC 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 180
27 Mark Perrow Wakatere BC 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 180
28 Michael Morrison Wakatere BC 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 180
29 Grant Pedersen Wakatere BC 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 180