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12 compete at NZ Finn Masters 2019 at Waiuku

by Karl Purdie 7 May 06:41 PDT 8 May 2019
Sunday race 2 start heading for the mermaid - 2019 Finn Class Masters, Waiuku YC © Kadi Annion

The Easter weekend saw 12 sailors descend upon Beaver Country for the annual Finn Masters Championship.

Situated at the most southern reach of the mighty Manukau, Waiuku YC is justifiably famous for its picturesque setting and unrivalled hospitality. Home to the Auckland Finn fleet it is notorious for its large windshifts where salvation is often found by the grace of the legendary mermaid dwelling in its mangroves. Many a world renowned sailor driven to tears by this capricious beast while watching an insurmountable lead transform to DFL mere metres from the finishing line. This is truly a venue where it is most definitely never over until the fat lady has sung her song. A venue where prior form counts for nothing and all compete at the most unlevel, yet levelling arena of all. It's fair to say that until you have won here all else counts for nought.

This year saw only one foolhardy sailor flee his gale stricken Wellington home and breach Bombay Hills passport control (well actually carry out a sneak attack around the hill using google maps) to take on Auckland's finest. The remaining southern sailors so broken by previous experiences that even the promise of free yacht club accommodation, free supplied Devoti Finns and more whitebait fritters for breakfast than you can poke a stick at not providing a sufficient lure to attend.....pussies!!!

Auckland hopes were justifiably high for retaining the Nora Wheatley trophy boasting such legendary NZ names as Ralph Roberts, Leith Armit and Craig Monk. Ray Hall after beating all comers at the recent Auckland Champs and only narrowly losing the nationals on the final day to finish second was the Auckland favourite. Mark Perrow who had previously finished 2nd at the OK Worlds and a close third at the recently completed Finn nationals was however hot on his tail. With light air specialists Dirch Anderson and Dave Hoogenboom waiting in the wings and murmuring cajoling words to the mermaid nothing was set in stone. Making his Finn debut long time Laser stalwart Deano Drummond was also present. Having been lent Karl Purdie's Nationals winning boat some interest was expressed in how he would fare.....after all as he was constantly reminded over the weekend "Lasers are for men who want to sail Finns but prefer to feel the wind whisper over their....." . Having finished 12th at the Laser World Championship last held in Milford there was however no doubting his pedigree.

The weekend saw the entire Alan Dawson Finn fleet take to the water with the Maestro himself in NZL 7, capably backed up by his 13 yr old grandson Tane Mahuta in NZL 123. His remaining three boats sailed by Gary Morse, Geoff Letcher and Karl Purdie. The entire fleet very happy to see Dawsey at last back in the Finn with bionic joints following an extended recovery period following knee replacement surgery.

The first day's racing saw a light and variable 0-5knt SE wind grace the course. Ultimately three races were completed around a two lap WL course. Karl Purdie being the only sailor to complete all three races in podium position took the early lead from Mark Perrow and Dave Hoogenboom. What devilment was this....a Wellington sailor more at home in Cook Strait gales showing the way in drift off conditions! Ray Hall was a close fourth after finishing 8th in the first race. A placing he advised all would surely be his discard....the mermaid chuckled to herself and rubbed her hands in glee at such temerity. Devoid of koha from this Ngapuhi she rubbed her belly full of tasty, delicious and satisfying salted caramel protein bar generously sacrificed by Karl, originally hailing from the more generous Te Arawa tribal lands.

Tane sailed a brilliant first two races which saw him initially leading his grandfather. Dirch sailed consistently showing glimpses of the light air form he is famous for. However his two year sojourn into more amorous territories had left its mark and he uncharacteristically failed to register a race win. Dave Hoogenboom always at the front also surprisingly failed to score a race win but was consistently in the first five to end the day tied for second with Mark Perrow. Dean Drummond slowly coming to grips with sailing a real boat finished a little adrift of the early pace setters.

With it all to play for the fleet reconvened the following morning only to be thwarted by the wind. A total glass out preventing any racing during the four hour tidal window available for racing. Sailors took to the yacht club deck to consume ice cold refreshments and in time honoured tradition righted all the worlds wrongs. Unsurprisingly a chief topic of conversation was the future of the Finn class beyond the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. We consoled ourselves with the knowledge international masters racing would continue. The masters fleet far outweighing the Olympic competitors in numbers, in a similar vein to the laser class. With the Laser and 470 also on the chopping board for the Paris Olympics we wondered what classes would be left to race on an open ocean environment in winds over 20-25knts with a good swell state.

We noted the 49, 49FX and Nacra classes were prevented from sailing their medal races in similar conditions during the recent Princess Sophia Palma regatta. Is this really the direction we want our sport taking and how we want it to be showcased to the non sailing public? . We wondered at the folly of the IAAF of not equipping its 100m runners with 1000cc superbikes or high jumpers with rocket powered back packs! How do these sports survive and stay relevant we asked ourselves without such modern X-Games type equipment?

Apparently the IAAF value athletic prowess over the equipment required to compete - GASP!.... surely a most non Olympic sentiment!

We wondered why YNZ didn't support the Finn past Tokyo given to date this class has won NZ one gold and two bronze medals and that given Andy's and Josh's recent performances in Palma it looks very likely to add another medal to this tally at Tokyo. Isn't the level of YNZ high performance funding by the government based primarily on the number of Olympic medals won? The irony of additional government grant money earned by a likely Finn medal in Tokyo being used to help fund a keelboat campaign which only a handful of people will be able to afford also wasn't lost on us.

On a more cheerful note sailors committed to attending Palma's Princess Sophia regatta next year and the Gold Cup immediately following. Other sailors set their sights on the Master Worlds to be held in the Netherlands next May at Port Zelande. Sunday dawned sunny and clear with a 4-10 knot northerly breeze over the course area. The +/-20 degree windshifts promising to keep all on their toes. Ultimately 4 races were completed with only Ray and Karl able to add less than 11 points to their overnight total. Consistency proving hard to obtain with the traditional track straight to the mangroves from the start often not paying dividends. Mark Perrow unlucky at not converting some chances into a regatta winning score was the next most consistent sailor. Racing was typically close and action packed with several "amicable" boat on boat discussions being held. Race 1 being particularly expensive for Ray with a boom end "miraculously" appearing through his technora sail as he gybed at the top mark.

The final race was notable for the Houdini act pulled out of the Purdie hat during its final beat. Karl while languishing in 10th place did a buffalo girls on the fleet as an evil gust (well some would say later, an evil belch smelling suspiciously of salted caramel) descended from above straight down upon the fleet. The leaders knocked on whatever tack they sailed. With Dean Drummond emerging from the fray to lead at the top mark Karl rounded in second narrowly ahead of Ray Hall, who had been the race leader by a large margin at the bottom. The top three positions remained unchanged down the final run leaving Ray and Karl tied on points. Following a worse race discard both sailors ending the series with two firsts, two seconds and two thirds. However with the tie broken by considering each sailors discard Karl won by virtue of his 4th place finish in the first race to Ray's 8th. The mermaid chuckled to herself, retreated to the mangroves plotting next years mayhem, still savouring the salted caramel protein bars so generously sacrificed to her.

The prize giving saw the southern interloper escape with the spoils back to the nations capital.

Other prizes awarded being -

1) The "Craig Monk" seasons points trophy also to Karl following a seasons tally of 1st, 2nd, 1st, 1st for the North Island, Auckland Champ, Nationals and NZ Masters regattas respectively.

2) The "Spit the Dummy" award to Ray for some dubious boat on boat "tactical manoeuvres" loudly proclaimed as "customary rights".

3) The Waiuku YC Finn seasons championship trophy to Mark Perrow.

Besides thanking Waiuku YC for their outstanding hospitality the Finn fleet also wish to express their sincere thanks to Bruce, Kadi and their faithful lab Scotty for their outstanding PRO performance and providing the event photography.

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