Defending Champ Ben Morrison started the fight back today sailing a super race to take a comfortable win in the third heat of the 50th OK Dinghy Nats being sailed on the sunny Hawkes Bay.
With the forecast all saying different things and three breezes fighting to take over the fleet arrived at the starting area to be greeted by a building north Easter much to the surprise of most, but as is usual with Napier a curve ball would be delivered by the weather which would deliver great rewards for those that got it right and a long day at the office for those who got it wrong!
Pre race the breeze built to a lovely 12knots with the odd puff a little higher, compass bearings indicated small five degree shifts, a perfect day for the first OK race of the new year.
With the line appearing square to the breeze the fleet lined up down the line and almost on que the breeze dropped to four to six knots and a horrible sea state left over from the previous building breeze as the gun went. The breeze first swung 25 degrees to the left and those that took the early shift would regret the move for the rest of the day.
Almost as quick as it left, the breeze started to re appear out of the left. Those that had sailed through the initial knock were rewarded with first look at the new breeze and tacked over to be sailing with more pressure and up to 50 degrees of better angle than those who flopped early. Morrison needing to lay down some good scores to keep in the contest after his first race OCS, read the situation to perfection, almost all alone on the left hand side he tacked over and proceeded to roll the whole fleet and lay into the top mark with a sizeable lead.
Paul Rhodes who worked centre left and using a new light airs sail showed good form to slip across and take advantage of the situation, he also slipped around with a sizeable distance to the bunch which included contest leader Russell Woods who sailed a smart first leg in conditions not ideal for the big fella. This group also included the Weekes Boys Jake and Kagan, Joe Porebski and Rod Davis who made the first of what we are sure to be many appearances in the front bunch, down the reaches Steve McDowell showed blistering pace in the new Woody to join the pack. Porebski jumped Woods and rounded for the second slog third. Showing his best form in years, Porebski put the bit between his teeth and looking like the Joe of old went about his business in typical determined fashion but with the breeze now building back to a nice 10 gusting 12 Woods once again turned on the power and slipped past Joe near the top for the run. Out front, Morrison went about his business and with a now huge lead had a lovely old sail round the remaining runway.
Rhodes was enjoying the same comfort in second but the battle for third carried on late into the race. Down the run Woods held firm although did time to Porebski and a hard charging McDowell. Through the gate Woods rounded third and with the breeze holding steady, powered away up the last leg. McDowell slipped round the opposite gate fourth and Porebski followed Woods round. A small distance to the Weekes lads and Davis who was hanging on well to the tail end of the lead bunch. Morrison dually took the gun a couple minutes ahead of Rhodes. Woods held firm after repeated attacks from Porebski to take third and continue to lead the regatta.
Back ashore the score cards began to take shape. Woods with a 1,1,3 carries five, Rhodes sporting a 2,4,2 carries eight, McDowell rounds out the top three carrying a 3,5,7 for 15 points.
Two races are scheduled for tomorrow with a lay day to follow. With forecast for 15 gusting into the 20 Woods and Rhodes would fancy their chances of keeping up there consistent score cards as both appear to have a slight upwind speed edge over all but perhaps Morrison and with drop races to kick in after the fifth heat, the score board will no doubt shuffle round a little, interesting times ahead.......
by Matt Stechmann
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7:58 AM Thu 3 Jan 2013GMT
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