New Zealand Nationals 2000
Courtesy: Alistair DeavesIt happened again!
The jinx that has taunted the Napier sailors for over 30 years is alive and well!
This years National Championship, held at Takapuna, was always going to be a hard contest, not least in the fact that the Auckland authorities had decreed that, because of some powerboat racing taking place over the same weekend, nobody could be on the water between 1.30 and 5.00. This was a sensible enough precaution, although it would seem a ludicrous constraint to place on an event ruled by the wind. Unfortunately though, it was unavoidable because all events that were not the Americas Cup had to take place in the two week window between the Louis Vuitton Finals and the Americas Cup itself. This ruling meant that races would have to be shortened if the time deadlines were approached.
It was good to see that a few overseas visitors joined the regular bunch of New Zealand sailors, namely Jesper Pedersen from Denmark and Birke Taufenbach from Germany. The "special guest" sailor this year was Tony Mutter, twice a previous champion and a recently made redundant sail-maker from the Abracadabra Americas Cup Syndicate.
Yet again, this was the year that Napier was expected to break its' "duck" of never winning a championship. So many times in the past they had come so close. One year it had been lost by a mere meter; others by a freak last result, others by special guest appearances. Every time someone came close, something would go wrong. We all wondered how it would happen this time.
Wednesday 8th February.
With high anticipation, the sailors gathered at the club. Things didn't look very rosy though. The Rangitoto channel resembled more a mirror than racing course. A fickle sea breeze had developed which was just not strong enough to overcome a south-westerly gradient wind. The result was two races held in light winds, shifting between anything from 30 to 180 degrees, with annoying regularity. After a 90 minute wait on the beach, the race officer, Rob Bond, pulled down the AP and got things underway. Many wished he had just pulled the plug instead, but the 1.30 deadline was fast approaching and there seemed to be enough wind to start.
Race 1 was led from start to finish by Greg Wilcox from Wellington. Tony Mutter followed most of the way in second. Breeze lines would funnel through the fleet splitting it wide open into little groups. Towards the end the wind died completely leaving some struggling to make the time limit. Adrian Mannering made the first of his mid race recoveries to cross the line second in front of Tony.
Between races, we were paid a visit by Americaone, the recent losing finalist in the Challenger series. Some thought that begging a ride on this impressive boat would be preferable to doing another race in the appalling conditions, but when the flags went up they returned dutifully to the start line to sail another race. This one was even more diabolical than the first. At the bottom mark things went from bad to worse as the wind started going round in circles. The last beat started as a light air run against the ebb tide, but as the south-westerly picked up again, those inshore got the breeze first and were taken to the line. How Tony Mutter managed to keep his lead through the whole race is a complete mystery. He was followed by Paul Rhodes and Greg. Adrian got out of jail again, managing a fourth place.
While the power boats were doing their thing the expected breeze turned up and all we could do was watch the frothy white plumes race up and down the channel and cry into our beer.
Thursday 9th February
Wind! The south-westerly had held overnight, and as we arrived in the morning, we were greeted with wind, and lots of it, albeit offshore, but nowhere near as shifty as the previous day.
For race 3 it was Adrian's turn to star, reveling in the breezy conditions. Still quite shifty, it was hard to judge where to tack to take advantage of new wind lines. Tony Mutter kept up his consistency to finish second, in front of an improving Russell Wood.
The fourth race turned into a Wilcox benefit, after he jagged a huge left hand shift on the first beat. He rounded the top mark with a huge lead followed a somewhat surprised Laurie Evans, and Nigel Mannering. Laurie had gone left with Greg, but Nigel had gone hard right along the beach. Nigel had worked his way up to second by the finish, followed by another top three placing from Tony Mutter.
Friday 10th February
With everything still to play for on Friday, the wind died away again. This time however there was no chance of any racing in the morning. So after the power boats had left the water at 4.30, we started racing in a nice light sea breeze that had been slowly developing during the afternoon. Adrian led race 5 all the way followed by Russell. In the second race of the day, Adrian led again, only to let brother Nigel and Russell past on his way to the finish. At this point things actually looked good for a Napier victory. That was until Adrian was told he was OCS in race 5. He applied for redress on grounds that the race committee couldn't see him because there were boats in front of him at the start that were not called over. The redress hearing went on into the night; a positive outcome being the only hope for Adrian to win. Eventually the hearing was adjourned until the morning when the race committee would hear evidence from the rescue boat at the other end of the line.
Saturday 11th February
Finally we had the right wind at the right time. A good sea breeze and a longer course made for the best race of the series. But it didn't matter for the final result. An early morning sitting of the protest committee failed to uphold Adrian's' appeal for redress. Tony was the champion, but there was still a race to be sailed. Saturday also saw the appearance of Phil Rzespcki, sailing his smart boat, recently redecked by Sel Pedersen.
Rob Hengst led at the first mark after taking a lift and slightly more pressure out to the right, and against the flooding tide. Most people were caught with their trousers down after hugging the shore to stay out of the tide. The breeze increased slightly which saw Adrian find his way to the front followed by Russell Wood and Alistair Deaves. Greg Wilcox worked his way into third on the reaches, and that's the way it stayed.
Once again the guest sailor has beaten us all in a very close contest. A worthy champion in very difficult conditions. And Adrian and the Napier sailors were left to ponder yet another year when something went awry. The junior trophy went to Chris Fenwick and the veteran's trophy to the old man Joe Porebski.
So thanks to Rob Bond and the two Janets and all their helpers fromTakapuna.
During the course of this regatta, our President announced his retirement. Graham Lambert has held this position for some six years since his election during the 1994 OK Dinghy World Championship, which was held in Napier. So it was appropriate that during the class meeting, it was also announced that Napier would again hold the World Championships in January 2002; Grahams retirement giving his replacement, Paul Rhodes from Wellington, time to get a hold of things before the big event.
Everyone keenly anticipates this forthcoming Championship. Qualification will be intense, and with great interest from the European sailors, there promises to be a maximum size fleet and an extremely good standard of competition. New Zealand only hosts the Worlds every eight years, so everyone sees this as an opportunity not to be missed.
This season is not over yet though. A merry bunch of some twelve sailors travel to Black Rock Sailing Club, Melbourne in April to contest the Inter-dominion Championship, recently renamed the South Pacific Championship. Together with an expected Australian turn out of 50 boats, including the current World Champion Peter Milne, this promises to be an exciting contest, rivaling the major European Championships for its size and standard of competition.