by Rob Burn
Ben Lutze (NZL) 2008 Splash World Champion
Queen Charlotte Yacht hosts three days tough sailing amongst the 150 plus sailors so far registered for the Port Marlborough Splash Class National Championships, the South Island Optimist Championship and including the inaugural InterIslander Optimist Challenge. This will be the biggest sailing event to be held on the waters of Queen Charlotte Sound.
The regatta started Thursday afternoon with registration and an official welcome by Marlborough's Deputy Major, Jenny Andrews. The sailing starts Friday with four races scheduled daily for the Splash Class and the Open Optimist fleet, both fleets sailing on similar courses out in Queen Charlotte Sound past Mabel Island. The Green Fleet Optimists, the first and second year sailors, will sail seven races on Saturday and Sunday outside the QCYC clubrooms in Picton's inner Harbour.
The 2007 Optimist World Champion, Chris Steele, of Auckland, will attend to mix with the sailors, offer some words of advice and inspire all to set their goals high.
Queen Charlotte, for a very small club has put a lot of effort and energy into coaching to build up the junior fleets. Last year with an Austrian International Coach, Tobias Koeb, helped to produce successes like Scott Fyfe, the two times National Splash Champion and this year, bringing Neeta Angre, the Indian national Optimist coach from Mumbai to continue the work.
Over the last few weeks 13 year old Taylor Burn in the Optimist has won the Sir Peter Blake Memorial Regatta in Auckland, plus the Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta plus being well placed in the other major regattas. His 17 year old brother Declan, won the Junior Sail Auckland Splash title two weeks ago at Kohimarama.
There are several competitive Splash sailors in Picton who will do well and many more Optimist sailors fast coming through the QCYC ranks.
The new part of this regatta will be the InterIslander Optimist Challenge, a 'State or Island of Origin' for Optimists, to promote the North South Competition and entice the Aucklanders away from their home waters. The InterIslander Opti Challenge trophy will be decided by the top place getters in both the Green and Open Fleets and will awarded to the sailing Club that provides the most top placed sailors to be the 'Island of Origin'
Already QCYC are seeing comments that 'you South Islanders have taking some of our Trophies, we are coming for yours'!
The InterIslander is supporting the Opti Challenge by sponsoring the event into the future. This first year is combined with the South Island Optimist Champs and is the second regatta of the Selection trials for the sailors vying for a place in a Team travelling overseas at the end of this season. There are places up for grabs to Brazil, the Caribean, Malaysia, Europe and possibly more.
Being such a small sailing Club, the organising for a regatta of this size is a Herculean task falling on the shoulders of a few, but proving that anything is possible with a willing team of volunteers and other visiting yacht club members.
The support from the main sponsors, Port Marlborough and InterIslander is fantastic, joined by a host of other great sponsors, Sail One, Blenheim Toyota, Mitre 10 Mega, Le Cafe, NZ Sail.com, Regal Salmon, Ocean Design, Peak fuel, Lawsons Dry Hills wines to name but a few.
The Marlborough District Council's support has been a major factor with providing help to cleanup Shelley Beach and make the beach more user friendly. The large slip nearby the Club has been made safe and fenced off, the Parks and Reserves Dept and their Contractors have done a wonderful job to get the area ready for this event that will bring around 500 people into Picton for 4 days at least.
The event will be run by a National Race officer, Gerald Martin, of Napier and a judging panel of International and National Judges lead by John Bullot of Auckland. They will be assisted by local club members whop will benefit greatly from the experience.
Images and the results will be updated on the QCYC website www.qcyc.org.nz