At the half way point of Oceanbridge Sail Auckland, the Royal Akarana Yacht Club is buzzing with competitors in high spirits, after a weekend of glorious sailing conditions on the Waitemata Harbour.
Only for the 22 boat strong OK dinghy fleet, today was the final day of racing. Ben Morrison of Wakatere Boating Club made a stunning performance; he won five of the six races sailed and left Paul Rhodes and 2013 National Champion Russell Wood trailing in second and third.
'It’s been really good fun' says Wellington sailor Paul. 'We’ve had a good regatta with a good sized fleet'
He continues: 'We usually have good fleets though; there are so many keen people in the class. Over the summer regatta series we usually get around 20 boats, except at the nationals we had 30.'
The OK Dinghy has large fleets in Auckland, Napier and Wellington, although the next regatta for ten members of this gang is the 2013 OK Dinghy World Championships to be sailed in Thailand on Easter weekend. 'The OK’s are a big deal over there, the King used to sail them. We’re all looking forward to it' says Paul.
Racing for the Olympic, Paralympic and other invited classes is all on track, and now that the minimum quota of races has been sailed, competitors in all fleets have been able to discard their worst score. On Sunday the wind started around 12 kn and steadily built all day, so four races were sailed for the Skiffs, Multihulls and Kiteboards while all others sailed three races.
Seasoned Olympians aside, there are a handful of developing sailors making their mark as supreme in their fleet. The young 29er duo of Marcus Sommerville and Jack Simpson have a string of six first place finishes on the results board, giving them a massive eleven point jump on the next boat of Isaac and Micah from the Waikato.
SKUD 18 sailors Charlie Baillie Strong and Genevieve Wickham too have won every race of the regatta, sailing this boat in the unique J1 configuration rather than the Paralympic style that sees both competitors sit in line.
London 2012 Paralympic sailor Tim Dempsey explains: 'Having the crew on trapeze changes a lot, because you can sail the boat so much flatter. Having an able crew that can run about the boat makes quite a difference too.'
Tim currently lies in second place with 2012 Olympic Match Racing helm Stephanie Hazard as crew. 'I reckon if we can pull it all together for the last two days we should be able to take one off them.' Tim says. 'It’s been exciting sailing, and downwind is absolutely awesome surfing waves.'
Josh Junior too has won every race in his division, the Finn. His results show clearly that he has come a long way since his first major Finn Regatta last June at Skandia Sail for Gold where he placed 19th. Andrew Murdoch is hanging in there, now tied on overall points for second and third with Matt Coutts.
Olympians JP Tobin, Peter Burling/Blair Tuke, Jo Aleh/Polly Powrie and Sara Winther are all leading their fleets.
Results are not so clearly defined in all classes though; the pressure is on for the 420 youth sailors with the top three teams within four points of each other. Christchurch sailors Taylor Balogh and Samuel Lee lead the fleet of more than a dozen boats from all corners of New Zealand.
Tauranga boys Sam Barnett and Zak Merton are tied on twelve points apiece with Olivia Mackay and Abby Goodwin of Napier after six races. Interestingly, these top three crews are currently in the same order as they finished the December 2012 Sir Peter Blake Regatta at Torbay.
Another Tauranga sailor, Torrin Bright has taken the lead of the kiteboarding event after four top two finishes. Dave Robertson has dropped to second overall while Matthew Taggart remains in third. Takapuna kiteboarder Justina Sellers is the better placed of the two females, ranked 11th of 20 in the mixed fleet.
Racing resumes on Monday at 11:00am on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour. Winds are expected to stay strong and there is a chance of rain with thunderstorms for the rest of the regatta.
This regatta is made possible only thanks to the contributions from principle sponsor Oceanbridge and supporters Danske Mobler, Yachting New Zealand, Sport New Zealand The Landing, Orakei Marina and most importantly, a team of more than 60 volunteers.