Oceanbridge Sail Auckland 2014, sailed at the home club of Auckland’s disabled sailing programme, is about to play host to one of New Zealand’s biggest ever Paralympic Class fleets. Four 2.4mR, four SKUD 18 and two Sonars will take part in the regatta which kicks off Saturday.
Earlier this month, Team Kiwi Gold unpacked their two new Paralympic class Sonar Keelboats, the first of their kind in New Zealand. Oceanbridge Sail Auckland will be the first regatta for the class in New Zealand, and helming a boat each will be Rick Dodson and David Barnes, who sailed together to an eighth place finish at the IFDS 2013 Sonar World Championships.
The Sonar is sailed by a crew of three sailors with physical disability, and with just two boats in the country, the regatta is sure to be an action packed dual between the pair.
Also for the first time, all four New Zealand based SKUD 18 boats will take part in the regatta. London 2012 Paralympic crew Tim Dempsey and Jan Apel have started separate campaigns, and this will be the first major outing for Tim’s new teammate Gemma Fletcher. Also new to the class is Jan’s skipper Paul Wager who is taking part in Oceanbridge Sail Auckland for the first time in 2014.
Tim and Gemma, along with most of the Paralympic fleet, have been in a Yachting New Zealand supported training camp for the last three days, getting up to speed for the regatta and starting to prepare for the IFDS 2014 World Championships in Canada next August.
'The training camp has been worthwhile even to just get all the Paralympic sailors in the same place at the same time,' says Coach Charlie Baillie-Strong. 'This is the first time we’ve run a clinic like this with all three classes, and the set up at Royal Akarana Yacht Club has been great for video debriefs.'
At Oceanbridge Sail Auckland, the SKUD 18 two man keelboats will be sailed in the J3 configuration, meaning that both skipper and crew must stay seated in the centreline seats at all times while racing. Similar to last year, some boats will have an able bodied crew member, however this year, nobody will be allowed to trapeze.
The 2.4mR fleet in particular is destined to showcase tight racing over the next few days, with 2012 Paralympians Paul Francis (pictured above) (NZL) and Matt Bugg (AUS) going head to head with two Christchurch sailors Andrew May (1996 and 2000 Paralympian) and Brett Willcock.
Matt Bugg placed fourth at the 2013 2.4mR World Championships and seventh at the 2012 Paralympics, and he has been one of the training partners this week with all three of New Zealand’s currently active 2.4mR sailors.
'It sounds like a couple of the kiwi 2.4mR sailors will be going to the IFDS Worlds this year too' Charlie continues, 'the fleet has really come alive again after being a bit quiet this past year'.
Invited Classes: Hansa Liberty and 303
Last year’s winner of the Hansa Liberty class, Russell Phillips of Australia, has returned again to front a defence of his title in the six boat strong fleet, and he is sure to be given a run for his money by locals including John Buchanan and Max Stacey who placed in the top five last year.
Three teams from Singapore will make the fleet of the Hansa 303 double handed class.
To follow the action head to sailauckland.org.nz - the up-to-the-minute website features a social media feed where competitors, supporters and volunteers posts using sailakl on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will paint a real-time picture of what’s happening on the water.
About 2014 Oceanbridge Sail Auckland
Oceanbridge Sail Auckland 2014 will take place at the Royal Akarana Yacht Club from the first – 4th February 2014.
The NZL Sailing Team are anticipated to feature strongly in what is the biggest Olympic and Paralympic class regatta in New Zealand, and alongside them will be New Zealand’s top developing youth sailors and keen competitors in a range of invited classes such as the OK Dinghy and A-Class catamaran.
All Olympic and Paralympic class boats are invited to take part: The Laser, Laser Radial, Finn, 470 Men, 470 Women, 49er, 49er FX, RS:X 8.5, RS:X 9.5, Nacra 17, Skud 18, 2.4mR and also other classes are encouraged: the OK Dinghy, 29er, 420, Liberty, Hansa 303, Kiteboards, F18 and A Class Catamaran.
Over four days of racing 11-15 races will take place for each fleet, and the format for all classes will be fleet racing with no medal race. All racing will take place in the Waitemata Harbour, in the surrounds of Rangitoto Island, North Head, Mechanics Bay and Browns Island.
Oceanbridge Sail Auckland is made possible only thanks to the contributions from principle sponsor Oceanbridge, and supporters: Sport New Zealand, Yachting New Zealand, Royal Akarana Yacht Club, Danske Mobler, The Landing and Orakei Marina. Equally important is a team of more than 50 volunteers that are behind the success of this regatta every year.
by Jodie Bakewell-White
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8:59 PM Fri 31 Jan 2014GMT
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