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Auckland Finn Champs race report

by Karl Purdie 20 Oct 00:45 PDT
Karl leads Ray through the gate, Mark already charging back upwind with Tom in the background. © Garth Briden

Held over 11 and 12 October 2020 the regatta attracted only seven entries with the wild Auckland weather no doubt deterring many of the locals from competing.

Originally forecast for 15 knot northerlies the fleet was greeted with 25-35 knot north easterlies, wind strengths more commonly associated with class stalwart Karl Purdie's hometown of Wellington. Discretion was deemed the better part of valour on Saturday with competitors happy to retire to the commodores lounge as Team NZ's craft was towed past at speed back to base after their high speed capsize. A timely reminder the season was still young and gear preservation was probably a wise move. Many yachting topics covered in great length as we watched Bianca Cook's Volvo 65 training and waited in vain for the wind to abate before finally calling it a day mid afternoon. Tom and Bushy providing much of the extremely entertaining material.

Sunday and the fleet gathered early to try to sneak in three races to complete a series before the wind built. Leaving the ramp was the first hurdle with a team approach required to negotiate the onshore waves. All made it to the start line only for gear breakages to force an early return to the ramp for Dave and Illia. Garth Briden and team Tamaki performed their usual great job with a windward leeward course promptly set and awaiting us.

Race 1 saw Karl lead the first of the two lap course to lose his lead on the second beat with Mark Perrow steaming through to take a well deserved victory. The extremely confused sea state making it difficult to maintain good speed upwind and providing some extremely hairy moments downwind. Bushy took third from Ray with Tom in fifth. Unfortunately that was the only race Bushy was able to complete due to a back injury flaring back up. However it was an extremely commendable performance mixing it at the sharp end of the fleet considering it had been some 20 years since last he had set foot in a Finn.

In race two Mark led from start to finish, sailing superbly and showing great heavy weather skills. Karl again took second with Ray third and Tom fourth.

Race 3 saw a reversal at the front end with Karl taking the victory with Mark second, Ray third and Tom fourth. Remarkably at this stage no one had capsized with Tom in particular showing great skills in getting around the course having not sailed a Finn in these conditions for quite some time. Ray, upon finishing the race, headed for the ramp with the rest of the fleet electing to join him. We learnt later the wind strength had in fact been averaging 27 knots and gusting 33, slightly more than the day before.

Having negotiated the ramp again (many thanks to Bushy, Dave and Illia for wading chest deep out to grab boats as they came in amongst the breaking waves) and unrigged the lads retired to the race office where beer and pizza generously put on by the yacht club were gratefully consumed. Mark was presented with the trophy having emerged a well deserved overall victor demonstrating a fantastic display of heavy air Finn sailing.

Overall Tamaki once again supplied a fantastic venue, awesome race management and a truly hospitable environment ashore. A huge thank you to all involved. The fleet were rapt to see Bushy rejoin the Finn fold and Tom progress even further. It is truly no mean feat to get a Finn around the race track right side up in those conditions. Once Tom gets his new boat he will no doubt be even more of a force to be reckoned with as will Mark in his. The conditions proved to be a great leveller with Karl and Ray's fantastica designs finding the very confused seaway hard going. Mark had his classic design better tuned for the conditions and sailed smarter. The next event on the calendar is the New Plymouth Big Wave Classic aka the North Island Championship in November. This promises to be epic with sailors travelling from the South Island no doubt seeking to gain some revenge for northern interlopers burgling their South Island title the season before.

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