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World Youth Champion wins OK Dinghy Rum Bucket at Wakatere

by Bob Smith, BS Sports Publishing 2 Nov 2018 05:10 GMT 2 November 2018
OK Dinghy Rum Bucket - Wakatere BC October 2018 © Wakatere BC

Early indications of local form were put to the test at the recent OK Dinghy Rum Bucket, held at Wakatere Boating Club, Auckland, over the weekend of 20-21 October. A strong fleet of 35 boats was entered, and the forecast was for light airs and fine weather.

Race 1 looked like a pin-favoured start line, with an incoming tide suggesting the left side of the course would be a sensible option. Napier's Rob Hengst tacked at the boat-end on the starting signal, sailed all the way to the right hand corner, and led the fleet comfortably around Mark 1. Paul Rhodes was in hot pursuit, and would eventually take the lead and win the race, not bad considering he had just launched his new boat that morning. Hengst hung on for an excellent second, while Steve McDowell sailed a solid race for third.

The highlight of Race 1, for many sailors, was a contest many had been anticipating when current world Laser youth champion, 16-year old Josh Armit, attempted to roll over the top of current national champion Luke O'Connell down the first reach. O'Connell has long been feared on the reaches, and as Armit came up and steamed to weather, O'Connell luffed him hard. As they headed off to the open Pacific, the rest of the fleet waved them goodbye and got back to racing. This time, Armit couldn't make the pass stick and was forced to choose between spending the rest of the day stuck in irons, or falling back in line. He chose wisely...and followed up by sailing straight past O'Connell to leeward.

Race 2 saw Rhodes sail another great race with a second just behind Andrew Philips, who took the race in his distinctive black and yellow boat, with Armit taking third and showing that the presence of so many experienced, senior sailors didn't worry him all.

After an uncharacteristically poor start to the contest with a 24th and an eighth, O'Connell found his way to the front of the fleet in Race 3 and sailed away for a solid win. Armit continued to improve with a second, and the old Sultan Mike Wilde showed excellent form with a third.

With the wind dying, and the siren call of on-shore refreshments beckoning, the fleet returned to shore after a great day's racing. Rhodes and Armit shared the lead with 14 points apiece, and nearly every sailor had at least one high-scoring race to his name in the shifty conditions.

Sunday brought a change in wind direction to the west, and the race area moved to the world's race area off Takapuna Beach. Four light-air races would be sailed in a day characterised by big shifts and ferocious competition.

Race 4 got underway with a left-hander that Joe Frazier would have been proud off, Philips got it first after pulling off an aggressive start and sailing away for a brilliant victory, his second of the contest, followed by Rohan Lord who was starting to show signs of serious light-air pace, with Rod Davis also showing speed and cunning to take third.

Steve McDowell tacked into another left-hander in Race 5 to lead at the first mark followed by Ben Morrison, Phillips and Armit. McDowell was not to be denied, and sailed a perfect race for the win, with that lover of all things light and shifty, Alistair Deaves coming through for a well-deserved second, with Chris Fenwick in third, after Morrison had been OCS.

Race 6 put the final nail in the coffin for O'Connell who was OCS, forcing him to carry his 24th from Race 1. This time it was Lord who sailed the shifts the best to take the gunsmoke, while Armit started to close his grip on the Rum Bucket with a solid second. Wakatere's Eric Rone was third, making the top three for the first time. Race 6 was also notable for the biggest right-hand shift of the contest up the middle beat, and except for a few lucky escape artists, the back half of the fleet swapped places with the front half.

Race 7 was the final race and started with (for once) a relatively even line, and shifts coming down both sides of the track. Deaves and Morrison, having started in the middle of the line, finally got in phase with those shifts and were first and second around Mark 1, followed by Rhodes, Davis, and Armit. Armit came through brilliantly on the reaching legs to take a lead he would never relinquish, taking the final race, Tiki glory and the Rum Bucket in fine fashion. Morrison was second and would be allowed to keep this result, while Rhodes was third in a good effort after what had been a testing day.

So young Josh Armit took the Rum Bucket and sent an early message to the OK Dinghy fleet ahead of the Worlds (at this location in 100 days). Eric Rone also showed that he has his act together with a well-deserved second, while Steve McDowell claimed bronze.

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