Teams new to the podium made history by claiming the first three places in this year’s Marine Trades Challenge at Westhaven New Zealand on March 12.
The Bay of Plenty’s Southern Ocean Marine team from Tauranga became the new MTC champions, with Whangarei’s Specialist Marine Interiors second and C-Quip from Auckland third.
This year’s event challenged teams from a variety of marine businesses and selected secondary schools to build a catamaran (to either a standard design or to their own) and then sail, paddle and motor it around a short course in St Mary’s Bay.
It was the first time that a catamaran design had been used for the event and organiser Mike Birdsall says this created some issues for the record field of 22 teams.
'The use of catamaran designs was certainly a big success,' he says. 'However it did present new challenges in construction and thinking for the teams.'
One of the teams’ biggest challenges was creating their catamaran’s 'bridgedeck'.
'The bridgedeck component saw an enormous range of design options and an outstanding quality of build,' says Birdsall, a view echoed by innovation judge Richard Downs-Honey.
'We saw some remarkable innovation, especially in the way teams solved the problems of assembly in short timeframes and the way they dealt with the lack of opportunity and tools and still found ways of ‘doing it right’.
'The ways various teams coped with the centre of gravity issue (the Yamaha outboard on the stern creating a bow-up attitude) was also very innovative.'
The on-water section of the Challenge was, as always, the one that most engaged the record crowd of supporters and spectators.
After receiving official clearance from the Harbour Master, the teams had to navigate their vessels around a course made even more challenging than usual by the light southerly winds.
In a result that was especially pleasing for Mike Birdsall, a field officer with the NZ Marine Industry Organisation, the standard design which he had provided as an option to the teams proved the most successful on the water. Boats built to this design won two out of the three on-water heats and then blitzed the fleet in the grand final, winning by over a leg.
The winning Southern Ocean Marine team will now head to Sydney in late July to compete against the best Australian teams in their equivalent of the Marine Trades Challenge.
The Marine Trades Challenge also features a division for secondary schools and this year’s event was won by the Mercury Bay Area School from Whitianga.