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Somerville and Simpson are NZ 29er National Champions

by John Adair on 22 Jan 2013
More drama on day 3 - 2013 NZ 29er National Championships John Adair

The NZ 29er Nationals 2013 have concluded with a comprehensive victory by Wakatere lads Markus Somerville and Jack Simpson.

Over the past month the pair has also notched up wins at Sail Sydney and the Australian 29er Nationals. Three days of generally windy conditions ensured high drama, lots of spills and non-stop action for the 29er Nationals just off Murrays Bay on Auckland's North Shore from 16-20 January.

This season, the 29er has enjoyed something of a resurgence in NZ thanks to a squad of younger sailors joining the fleet fresh out of Optis (some still sailing them actually) but also in large part due to the generous coaching support of Yachting New Zealand led by Jim Maloney.

Mention and thanks also go to outgoing 29er NZ President Mike Simpson who has done much to revitalise the fleet particularly in Auckland, ably supported by 29er treasurer / secretary stalwart Helen Harris also keeping Dunedin afloat. After completion of registration and measurement, the AGM concluded with Kim Rogers appointed as president, supported by Trudy Shearer as treasurer and John Adair for web / publicity, along with a number of new and existing committee members. Great to see such renewed interest and support to grow this long over-looked class of extreme youth sailing.

Day 1

Conditions were on the limits of being able to run races with wind strength averaging 24 knots and gusts in the high 20s.

Australian pair George Stent and Benjamin Robinson immediately relished the conditions and used their combined weight and experience in the wind to round the top mark first, closely followed by Tim Adair and Sam Simpson. The Aussies remained at the front to win the first race. Despite the wind strength, conditions were shifty nearer the top mark given the offshore direction and impact of the surrounding cliffs and bays which proved tricky for the fleet throughout the day.

The regatta favourites, local lads from just down the bays at Narrow Neck, Somerville and Simpson hit their straps in the second race and subsequently completed 3 wins to launch them into regatta pole position at the end of day 1. Country boys McHardie and Wilkinson showed form by claiming second place in race 2, hotly contested by the Tauranga-based Rippey brothers. At this stage, some of the fleet were showing signs of succumbing to the adverse wind and seas with some breakages and gear failure occupying support boats during races 2 and 3.

On being quizzed by the approaching rescue boat as to what help was needed, big city boys Webber and Morgan explained that they were sinking and had lost their rudder pin disabling their ability to sail and steer. After a long tow in, it was great to see them fresh-faced and water-tight back on the water on day 2.

Day 2

The wind had eased overnight averaging around 19 knots offshore but picking up a little as the day wore on. Somerville and Simpson continued their relentless winning streak with the Aussies finding the lighter wind and shifty conditions costly in race 5. The Adair / Simpson duo duked it out with Handa and Rogers for second place, although the former skilfully executed their final downwind gybes to position themselves just ahead of the pair before the finish to take second place, leaving Handa / Rogers in third. Race 6 saw the Rippey brothers move up to the front of the pack and finishing second, closely followed by the Aussie boys. The same top-three combo swapped places for race 7, which was to form a pattern for much of the rest of the regatta.

The Luna Rossa entourage swung by with their awesome AC72 to give the 29er crews a whiff of multi-hull challenges that lie ahead on the wish list for many of our skiff sailors. As quickly as they arrived, so too they disappeared and left the skiffs to enjoy some more close combat.

The day’s final race (8) proved the most riveting finish of the regatta when four boats vied for the top spot all the way to the finish. McHardie and Wilkinson led the race most of the way around the track after a very good first leg and were still in the lead with only 30 metres to the finish line. Inexperience of positioning and timing the final gybe in such extreme conditions left the door open for Somerville and Simpson to take first, and still further indignity with the Aussies squeezing into second place.

Day 3

Day 3 saw considerably more wind than forecast at times almost approaching that of day 1, coming straight up the bays rather than offshore creating choppy seas and less shifts. Again some of the newer pairs struggled with the conditions although all credit to those who stuck it out despite having very few hours in the boat together. Having had it all their way on day 2, day 3 provided some great competition for the regatta leaders, although their supremacy was never really in question by now barring a catastrophe. Again the Aussies excelled as the wind whipped up, managing a first place in race 10.

McHardie / Wilkinson had a solid, consistent performance on day 3 to ensure their fourth placing. The Rippey boys secured their third place with a convincing win in the final race. With the final NZ Youth Selection event looming in the form of Sail Auckland in a few weeks, we can expect to see plenty more action and drama unfold.

We can also expect to see a great turnout at next year’s nationals when all the pairings will have developed their skills and experience considerably – should be a very hotly contested top spot.

Well done to all the brave crews who competed, thanks to the PRO (Kim Admore) and his team, many thanks to regatta hosts at Murrays Bay Sailing Club and congratulations to the 2013 NZ 29er National winners, Markus Somerville and Jack Simpson.





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