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Waiuku Finn Masters - everything to play for

by Karl Purdie 4 Aug 2020 12:14 PDT
Race 3 Start - Waiuku Finn Masters Regatta © Dan Bush

At last, a Finn regatta post lockdown was able to be held. The mighty Waiuku Yacht Club once again hosting the annual Master’s regatta 24-26 July.

But wait there was more. Due to our schedule being interrupted, the North Island and Mid-Winter Championship titles and the Craig Monk Memorial season’s points trophy also up for grabs. This regatta was truly to be a gathering where everyone could be a winner!

Sailors travelled from Christchurch/Picton in the South Island and Wellington/Wanganui at the bottom of the North Island to take on the cream of the Auckland Finn fleet. The Auckland fleet this year was bolstered by international sailing superstars:

- Dan Slater (two time NZ Finn Olympic Rep)

- Rod Davis (multiple Olympic medal winner and AC guru )

- Tom Dodson (Selected 1980 Olympic Finn rep, robbed of a medal by Muldoon, international keelboat star, NZ North Sails guru)

- Chris (Curly) Salthouse (multiple NZ AC challenges team member and renowned boat builder).

The interlopers residing south of the Bombay Hills, stocking up on sacrificial salted caramel muesli bars to placate the insatiable famed Waiuku mermaid knew they were in for a torrid contest.

Races comprised two 35 minute windward leeward’s with a downwind finish with three races completed each day. Alan Dawson and Dan Bush manning the start/finish boat with Dave Allen and Dawsey’s grandson Tane on mark boat duty. Races 1-6 counting towards the North Island title, races 4-9 counting towards the Mid-Winter title and races 1-9 determining The Master’s winner. The season’s points trophy to be awarded to the sailor with the lowest cumulative score of their nationals (counting double points) and two other ranking regatta overall placings. Excellent race management resulted in the entire schedule being completed within the allotted tidal window with the average upwind direction corresponding precisely with the top mark location.

Friday saw the rain clear to a brilliantly sunny afternoon with races held in a 10-18 knot SW which gradually died to 6-10knts for the final race. Racing was extremely tight, mere boat lengths separating boats throughout the fleet at each finish. Dan Slater was walking the talk following his lockdown zoom-meeting coaching sessions taking a slim overall lead following the first three races. His upwind decision making truly masterful to behold as he consistently held clear lanes and picked his way through the notorious Waiuku wind shift minefield. The last race of the day seeing Rod Davis score a credible 4th in arguably some of the closest Finn racing experienced for some time. Paul Bamford from Christchurch showed excellent skills also to score all top ten results in a borrowed Marten Marine craft. Post-race debriefing held at the yacht club producing many terrific tales over a refreshing beverage and tasty pie topped with Watties’ finest.

Saturday dawned fine again with lighter 8-12knt SW breezes and the customary wind shift minefield. Curly joined the fleet with an immaculately restored Marten Marine Finn powered by a Josh Junior donated new sail. Racing resumed where it had finished the day before with every position tightly contested. Rod Davis was continuing to improve with Curly also relishing the light and shifty conditions, both scoring all top ten placings. At the head of the fleet, Dan Slater and Karl Purdie went at it with Purdie clawing back the one point deficit of the day before to move a point ahead. However, with the drop coming into play it was Dan who lifted the North Island Championship on the back of an excellent race five win.

Some weary bodies were pulling beach trolleys up to the reserve this night before settling into chairs with cold beer and pie in hand to recount the day’s events. The final day and the sun deserted the Manukau with overcast cloud and a light 6-10knt southerly blowing straight offshore. With Dan unable to sail due to prior commitments Tom Dodson took over the running of Dawsey’s immaculate late model Devoti, abandoning his restored woodie. What a difference a day and a boat make with Ray Hall having his best day of the regatta to score two victories and a third to claim the Mid-Winter Championship. Tom Dodson finally unleashed scoring 6,7,4 to best Rod Davis for the day on 5,19,6. And Curly with 7,6,8. Both Rod and Tom partaking in impromptu swims in the second race of the day. Paul Bamford continued his good form finishing top 10 in each race with Dave Hoogenboom rediscovering some form to take out the first race of the day decisively. Alistair Deaves was coming to grips with his Finn over the last six races to score five top ten results and finish seventh in the Mid Winters.

After the final tally up of all nine races, it was Karl Purdie who took out the Master’s title and with it the season’s point’s trophy. Class newcomers Rod, Curly and Tom impressed finishing 4th, 6th and 8th respectively in the Mid Winters 20 boat fleet. The prize-giving at the club saw everyone emerge with a prize of some description from the pool generously provided by Alistair Deaves, The Watershed, Burnsco, Dan Bush and Dawsey’s bottomless supply of CRC products. Once again Waiuku hosted a hugely enjoyed regatta typified by close, exciting racing and a relaxed atmosphere ashore. The NZ Finn fleet wishes to extend a huge thank you to Dawsey for making it happen and Bushy for assisting on the start boat. It is truly a remarkably welcoming, enjoyable and challenging venue to compete at rewarding consistent smart sailing. A big shout out to the event sponsors as well - Dan Slater (The Watershed), Dan Bush, Robert & Alistair Deaves and our major sponsor Burnsco Manukau.

Looking around the reserve at people rigging their boats sharing tuning tips and simply enjoying their sailing, it was not hard to see every cloud has it’s silver lining. What COVID-19 has taken away from us in terms of international competition it has given back in the rejuvenation of grassroots club racing with many of NZ’s international yachtsmen returning to where it began for them - their original dinghy classes and clubs. Sharing considerable knowledge and experience with club members while at the same time honing their fleet racing skills in local, technical classes which have stood the test of time in providing tough and competitive racing. Worse circumstances could be endured for a year while we wait and prepare for the world to return to some semblance of normality.

It’s not every day a person gets to race against distinguished Olympians, Olympic and World Championship medal winners, AC competitors and international keelboat crew members while at the same time enjoying both their comradery and that of your long term classmates. Fierce and fair competition afloat and great times ashore.

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