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55 knots of wind, 26 windsurfers, 2 days of racing - priceless!

by Bruce Spedding on 3 Dec 2013
Downwind racing in Eastbourne, Wellington Isaac Spedding

With several of New Zealand's top racing windsurfers coming to Wellington to test themselves and their new equipment the capital had to deliver, and it didn’t disappoint.

26 sailors from Dunedin to Auckland arrived for 2 days of full-on slalom racing off Eastbourne, Wellington.

Saturday

Winds forecast to reach 50 knots were the drawcard for sailors who can reach speeds matching the Americas Cup yachts, but in a sport where sailors are not sailing a craft, they are the craft, their equipment is an extension of their bodies.

Saturday dawned with winds in excess of the predicted 50 knots - gusts of nearly 60 knots (over 100 kph) were recorded. Most sailors went out on their smallest wave sailing boards and sails to take advantage of the conditions, which were too extreme for the specialised racing gear they normally used. Spectacular sailing including loops were only eclipsed by the attempts of the rescue boat to come across the harbour, it managed to become completely airborne at times and race organisers eventually ordered it back to base until the conditions eased.

Several hours later the winds had eased to a more moderate 25-35 knots, the start/rescue boat was able to return, and a number of races were got underway before the day finished. Races were started from the beach because the conditions still made it difficult to operate from the boat, so windsurfers had to negotiate the surf break to get underway in a Le Mans style start.

Laurence Carey from Team 10 in Auckland showed why he is currently the top youth and overall number 2 slalom racer in New Zealand. His team mates Harry Reid and Luke Watson, fellow Aucklander Tim Wood, Paul Vliestra from Dunedin, and Wellingtonians Woo Norris, James Court, Dave Steele and William Novak vied for the next few places in challenging conditions.

An excellent evening in the local Eastbourne establishment on the Saturday night was followed by an announcement that racing would resume early the next day to take advantage of the remaining wind, which was due to change direction later in the day.


Sunday

A 10:30am start saw racing excellent conditions and boat starts made for some close racing, with a total of 10 races completed before the wind decided to drop below race minimum.

Laurence Carey continued to dominate, with the other Team 10 sailors taking control of second and third, and the remaining sailors sharing the next places equally. Wellington windsurfers continued to improve, with Dave Steele nailing his starts, and William showing impressive speed on borrowed slalom gear which had never used before.

Results were announced, prizes awarded and sponsors and event helpers, thanked before the sailors departed for home - some facing a long drive to Auckland.

Final results were:
First - Laurence Carey AWA) - Starboard/North, followed by Harry Reid (AWA), Luke Watson (AWA), Tim Wood (AWA), Dave Steele (WWA), William Novak (WWA), Darren Nicolas (TAU), Chris Bolt (AWA), Paul Vliestra (DWA) and Bernard Carey (AWA). are listed below.

The event proved a major success, creating a colourful spectacle on the Eastbourne waterfront over the two days of winds, from extreme to moderate. It bodes well for future events being staged, not the least as a result of the great support from the locals.

Special thanks to:

Brew’d Eastbourne who not only sponsored the event but also provided a great social venue - sure to be used again in future.
The Eastbourne Sports and Services Club who opened up their facilities for the event, Petone Pak’n’Save who provided the BBQ supplies,
Eastbourne Fruit Supply who arrived with a life saving stock of fruit
Oceans Sports who provided the boat and driver

The helpers were invaluable, no event without them! Marilyn Auton Wood, Catarina Gutierrez, Lyn Jowett, Will from Ocean Sports, and Alex Dean (AWA) who gave up a sailing weekend. Thanks also to Phil Benge for photos, and Isaac Spedding for photos and video.

There was also good support from industry with spot prizes from Watercooled Sports (Dunedin), A’nd - Gaastra (Auckland), Wild Winds (Wellington), Epic Surf and NZSailing.net.

Big thanks also to the guys from out of town who came to event and showed the locals what is possible, the National Slalom Competition in Dunedin in February should see some very tight competitive sailing again this year.

AWA - Auckland Windsurfing Association - awa.org.nz
WWA - Wellington Windsurfing Association - wwa.org.nz
DWA - Dunedin Windsports Association - dwa.windsurfingnz.org
TAU - Tauranga Windsurfers

Windsurfing NZ - windsurfingnz.org

Contact: Bruce Spedding - president @windsurfingnz.org, 02102974741

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