New Zealand, 2014/15 Turangi International Open
Turangi YC, Stump Bay, Lake Taupo
11 - 12 April
By NZ association.
13 of New Zealand’s finest OK Dinghy sailors gathered for this year’s instalment of the famed Turangi International Open, held on 11 and 12 April at the royal and ancient Turangi Yacht Club, situated as it is in the stunning surrounds of Stump Bay, Lake Taupo.
Turangi normally brings one of the biggest fleets of the year, but unfortunately this year the turn-out was lower than expected and speculation was rife as to the cause. Some said that most of the Auckland fleet stayed away to work in secret on a plan to bridge the gap to Luke “Colt” O'Connell – the little dynamo has been on fire for the last 2 seasons and has won most contests with ease. Apart from being runner-up in the 2014 Worlds by one point to the Champ Matt Stechmann, and taking tight one-point victories over Ben Morrison in the 2014 nationals, and the lron Dwarf Steve McDowell in the 2015 nationals, the Colt has been untouchable for the last two seasons even in this fleet where the quality is higher than ever.
It has to be said - anyone who didn't attend this year’s Open missed one of the greatest events of the year. Racing was intense and the onshore activities were off the hook.
5 Races were held on Saturday with the breeze between 4-8 knots, large pressure lines and plenty of passing lanes made the racing intense.
Race 1 saw the Colt fly fast out of the blocks, going left when most of the fleet went right, and this paid off big time. By the first top mark O’Connell had built a considerable lead and was never challenged, the real contest being for 2nd between American import Eric 'Wolf' Rone and the legendary Peter Lester. Wolf won a tight battle there and Lester followed in 3rd with double Olympic medallist and Artemis head coach Rod Davis taking 4th.
Race 2 was a much tighter affair. The Colt was deep at the first top mark after a rubbish start, with a big bunch at the front duking it out all the way to the end. After a nail-biting final run, the Sultan Mike 'Oscar' Wilde and the Wolf of Wakatere were tied in a dead heat across the finish: even the legendary race committee led by Captain Wally van der Aa couldn't split the tie, while meantime, somehow, the jammy bloody Colt managed to pull out a great comeback to take 3rd.
As it transpired, Race 2 would be O’Connell’s worst race. Another three races were held on Saturday all of which were swept by the Colt, while Ben Morrison fought his way back on to the leaderboard three 2nds, while the Wolf maintained solid form to end the day with a 2,1=,3,3,8 and in 2nd overall, leaving O’Connell, Rone and Morrison well clear of the chasing pack after Day 1.
By winning the final race of the day, the Colt took the Tiki and with that, broke the 9-all Tiki deadlock between him and Morrison to become the first man (since the introduction of the coveted Tiki boat transfers) to take 10 Tikis and earn a Taniwha for his boat.
With sails down, warhorses tucked away in their covers and kissed goodnight, thoughts turned to the night’s festivities. With the whole fleet staying at the venue, generously hosted by the Royal&Ancient, it was set for a big night. Things kicked off with a magnificent traditional BBQ followed by beersies, rumsies, buckets and a massive bonfire on the beach. The fleet were entertained by myths and legends shares around the fire by Lester, Davis and several OK elders, and we then had the ceremonial burning of the multihull. This was a sacred and moving ceremony in which a wooden catamaran was carried from beneath the halls of the TYC and solemnly placed atop the flames, to be consumed by fire and sent to the gods of sailing, possibly to be reincarnated as an OK Dinghy. The fleet then held a moment’s silence for the fallen, in particular Rudiger Prinz, a German OK sailor who was a great friend to many in the Kiwi fleet, and who recently passed away.
Sunday morning dawned crisp and clear, and the fleet were treated to a superb breakfast of bacon and egg butties prepared by the legendary Oscar.
One of the advantages of being on site was the ability to get out early to the course early, and Race 6 kicked off at 10.00am in a shifty, gusty, 10-15knots. The increased breeze saw a tighter race with the bigger boys now in contention - up the first beat it was an under-the-weather Steve 'Lead Dwarf' McDowell pulling out a good lead only to fade before the top mark and letting Colt pass, while Wilde and Morrison came back from looking dead and buried on the lefthand corner to round in 3rd and 4th. The Dwarf woke up down the run and smacked the Colt, but his lead was short lived and O’Connell notched yet another bullet, with McDowell a comfortable second followed by Rod 'Coach' Davis who had charged through the fleet to take third.
Race 7 and the last of the series saw the wind drop slightly at the start and first beat but then build up to a nice 17knots. Morrison nailed the pin end start, tacked and crossed the fleet to shoot out to an early lead, but yet again the Colt relentlessly hunted down the pack and took the lead downwind to win his 6th race for the series, with Morrison 2nd and Lester in 3rd, a nice comeback after a swim and wooden spoon in Race 6.
And so Luke O’Connell took out the Open for 2014-14 and, with that, the 2014-15 NZOK Tour for the second year running. Morrison was 2nd at Turangi and 3rd in the Tour, Rone was 3rd at Turangi and 4th in the Tour, and Alistair Deaves managed to hang on to 2nd in the Tour despite missing Turangi altogether.
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