In spectacular racing, New Zealand established a convincing early lead on Day 3 of the 54th 12’ Skiff Interdominions.
A dominant display over three races on a blustery Wellington harbour sees the Kiwis carrying 71 points, clear ahead of the Australians on 123. However, NZ is a recently burned nation not entirely comfortable with calling sailing victories too soon, especially with Aussies at the rival helm. So optimism in the Kiwi camp remains muted.
The 2014 Interdominions are held over ten races with the top five boats from each of NZ and Australia vying for the class' most coveted Don Brooke trophy. A strong challenge has been laid down that will certainly be difficult for the Australian team to claw back over the remaining 7 outings.
After a 55 knot storm blew out the second day of racing, Wellington put on a more measured breeze in the early-20s with a healthy chop keeping crews honest. Conditions were testing across today’s three races, as the northerly intensified towards the 30 knot limit as the day wore on. But the very tight racing at the pointy end of the fleet was all Kiwi.
Race 1 saw, for the first time in recent memory, the entire Kiwi team (and then some) finishing ahead of the first Australian boat. After three windward-leewards, New Zealand’s top seed Alex Vallings, fresh from victory in the Nespresso 18' skiff Mark Foy regatta in San Francisco, found himself in the reasonably familiar position of leading through the finish line.
His work-mate at C-Tech and fellow New Zealander, Chris Reid, was tucked in just behind. Local Wellingtonian, Glen Armstrong also finished on the podium. The New Zealanders then occupied positions 4 through 6, with regatta favourite, Sydney's Nick Press, coming home in seventh, a place ahead of his father, Murray. Several of the visiting Australians under-rigged, perhaps a bit spooked by a week that only added to windy Wellington’s notoriety.
12' skiffs have a range of four rig options depending on the conditions. This adds a significant tactical element to one of yachting's most dynamic classes. Lunch saw the usual discussion between crews about whether to go with a rig change, as the forecast flirted with a wind build. Most stuck to their third rigs and sure enough, moments after hitting the water for Race 2 the northerly freshened. Many were well overpowered, and the bottom end of the fleet did their best to obey one of sailing's golden rules - keep your hull under your mast – but didn't. On a course well-littered with capsizes, results saw Auckland's Russell Davis bring home the single point, followed by Alex Vallings and a consistent Glen Armstrong in position 3.
The bulk of the fleet, except for the bulkiest amongst them, bolted for the beach after the second race, to put in a swift rig change before Race 3. Wind now teasing at the wind limit, fourth rigs were the preferred choice. But the start saw Alex Vallings On Course Side (OCS), and despite crossing the finish line neck and neck with Davis, the OCS is one result Vallings will presumably be dropping. Another victory sees Davis in the lead over night before racing resumes tomorrow morning.
One casualty of the day was Craig Anderson's aptly named 'skiff.org.nz'. Anderson nursed her home after a gusty turnover in the bear away ripped out part of the hull, broke prod stays and shredded a jib and kite at the top mark … a mark that came off second best in the incident and saw the race committee scrambling to replace it before the final lap. The team is working overnight to repair the damage in time for tomorrow.
But it is the Aussies who will need to do the re-grouping tonight over a cold beer if they are to take home the silverware from the Kiwi trophy cabinet. And Nick Press will be wanting a better set of results if he is to set a new historical record of 5 consecutive individual championships this year, and become the most winning sailor in the class' history.
The 12‘ Skiff Interdominions have been held between New Zealand and Australian teams since 1956. The 54th regatta is being hosted by Worser Bay Boating Club in Wellington, NZ from fourth to 11th January, 2014. Excellent sheltered viewing of all the action is available each day at the yacht club.
For full results click here
by Sven Pannell
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9:16 AM Mon 6 Jan 2014GMT
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