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Flying Fifteen New Zealand National Championship at Royal Akarana Yacht Club

by Chris Fields 12 Feb 06:53 GMT 7-9 February 2019
2019 Flying Fifteen New Zealand National Championships © Chris Fields

The 2019 Flying Fifteen New Zealand Nationals were sailed from the Royal Akarana Yacht Club in Auckland from 7 - 9 February, 2019.

The weather conditions for Auckland at this time of year are hot and humid. The temperature on Wednesday 6th, the day all competitors arrived to rig, have sails, gear and boats checked was around 28c and very sunny. It was a national holiday and the beautiful weather brought hundreds of boaties out onto the water so the ramps by the club were a buzz of cars and trailers.

Race Day 1 Thursday

Localised heavy rain over night caused day one to start with overcast conditions. 15 boats launched in breezes from the East, ranging from 12 - 18 knots, accompanied by a sloppy chop around the Waitemata Harbour. The first race got under way on time, only to be stopped for a general recall. The second start was better with only individual recalls. The course was a triangle followed by windward/leeward to the finish. The tide had turned and was running with the wind, but worse, the wind direction had shifted, and the second leg was tight reaching instead of a spinnaker run. The breeze was patchy around the course but generally good. Blowffish cleaned up the first race, sailed by Craig Coulham and his partner Adrienne from Auckland, followed by another Auckland boat Ffrenetic, crewed by Murray Gilbert and Jon Burgess and close for third was Business from Napier, sailed by Hayden Percy and Scott Pederson.

There were very similar conditions for Race 2 with Easterlies around 15 - 18 knots with gusts over 20, but light patches around the course. The mark settings were adjusted, the wind direction remained constant. This time the course was a triangle, followed by two windward/leewards. Hayden Percy sailed Business into the lead early and never looked back to win convincingly. Murray Gilbert was finding his stride and worked his way to second place and the boat from Whangarei in the North, aptly named Jaffa, sailed by Rob Ward and Bruce Yovich found good pace to finish 3rd.

The day's conditions stayed overcast for Race 3 with warm air patchy breeze and favourable (or not so favourable) lifts. Hayden and Scott in Business were on a roll, picking the shifts perfectly and capitalised to be at the top mark a hundred metres ahead of the next boat, another Napier boat Snaffler, sailed by Chris Reid and Graeme Robinson. Jaffa sailed by Rob Ward finished off the podium finishers in third place to complete racing for the day.

Race Day 2 Friday

A sunny start to the second day of racing and the breeze had filled as the boats sailed out to the race course for the warning signal for Race 4 at 10.00hrs. A breeze from East/Southeast of approximately 15 knots with a small chop. The start went well, no individual recalls and with the right side favoured. The course was a triangle with two windward/leewards, approximately an hour to complete. Murray and Jon in Ffrenetic showed a clean pair of heels to the top placed boat Business, sailed by Hayden and Scott. Third in the race with consistent sailing was Jaffa, sailed by Rob and Bruce.

The wind strength had increased to 15 - 18 knots for Race 5, the sea state had become lumpy and the start line needed adjustment. The sky's were clear providing perfect conditions. The start had an individual recall and Ffrenetic returned, allowing Business to capitalise and steal away upwind. The fleet divided to both sides of the course but it was the right that paid off for many and Loafer, a completely rebuilt boat (NZL 3508, the first of the Ovington 10's in the country) sailed by Brian Kent and Hamish McGill followed Business home for second place, with another strong contender in the Auckland fleet, Blowffish with Craig helming and Adrienne as his crew coming in 3rd. Murray and Jon to their credit, sailed well enough to gain 5th spot.

For Race 6 the tide was running now, and the favoured side was the right. The wind strength remained the same at around 15 - 18 knots with gusts over 20. Blowfish sailed spectacularly to work their way to the front of the fleet and went on to win. The other two in the game at this stage battled it out with Hayden and Scott in Business getting the edge to finish second, closely followed by Murray and Jon in third with Ffrenetic and then Jaffa still in the hunt in fourth.

The wind strength had increased to a steady 18 - 20 knots for Race 7 with slightly stronger puffs and of course, everyone was feeling it! Positions were swapped with Ffrenetic taking the gun, followed in by Business and then a great effort by the Godffather, sailed by Sally Garrett and her crew Neil Easton to finish third. Loafer who sailed consistently all day, managed a fourth for the final race of the day.

Upon getting back to the club it was apparent not all went well through the fleet. Two collisions reported and gear breakages marred the day with three boats pulling out. Luckily no boats were seriously damaged but it was a hive of activity to get the damaged boats ready for racing again for the next day.

Race Day 3 Saturday

The morning began with fast dark looming clouds, the wind direction was firmly from the East, around 15-20 knots with bigger gusts coming through for Race 7. The sea state was lumpy and we all got wet with sea spray on the way to the course. The course was set up for triangle with two windward leewards to finish. The actual start was orderly and the fleet peeled off left looking for a lift. Murray and Jon managed to hook a lift and arrived at the top mark on port but Sally and Neil in the Godffather with rights showed the fleet how to sail the lumpy conditions and rounded the top mark first, managing to keep the lead until the end. In for second was the leading overall boat Business with Hayden and Scott managing well and hotly pursued by Murray and Jon in Ffrenetic, not able to make up the difference.

The sea state was building along with the wind strength for the final race but the start was without incident. Once again it seemed the left side was favoured and to go right meant boat speed was compromised in the chop. Late in the race the wind became squally before bringing in a little rain but Murray and Jon got it right this time, but only just. One big squall caught the fleet, Frenetic was slightly heeled and bore the brunt of it knocking them over, sheets pulled tightly and the boat lurched upwards and forward, dragging all the weight of the sea with them but their spinnaker didn't cope, shredding from the top only leaving the head of the sail flying like a maddened flag. They recovered to cross the line but only just. Sally and Neil in The Godffather witnessed it from close quarters and could only manage second place. Blowffish with Craig and Adrienne storming home in third and the boys in Business earned their only discard, finishing in 5th place, after Rob and Bruce sailing Jaffa.

A breakdown of events of the last day as seen by Scott Pederson sailing Business:

After a good first two days we were looking forward to getting in 1 more good race to secure the championship. Heading out to the race course it was a nervous time in very choppy seas with fairly strong breeze and a boat that had broken a couple of times the previous day.

We were keen to continue doing what we had done the previous races and sail hard to the first mark and see where we were from there. Got a great start out of the middle and were in great position at the top mark just behind Craig. Had another close incident with Murray at the mark but this time he was unable to get inside us so that gave us some breathing space.

First reach was very fast and fun, full hike and smoking. Made a good gybe then halfway done the next reach 'Bang' our worse fears realised and the pole comes away from the mast. Pull kite down and find the pole is not broken just beak is a bit loose so big relief.

Round the bottom mark and after a bit look back to see an awesome broach at the mark by a boat (maybe Fred?) never seen these boats got over so far... impressive. Sailed a great next beat and nailed the lay line from a long way out to lead to the top. Held the lead back up to the top again but Sally is closing fast and passes us on the run near the finish. Cross the line and lots of excitement as we get to celebrate a fantastic Nationals victory.

Last race and wind is still building. We take it very easy conscious not to muck anyone else up or break the boat again. Get to the top in 3rd and decide not to fly our kite for the reaches. Back in 6th at the bottom and thought we would hit the left and see if we can find what Murray has been getting out there all day. Sure enough there it is and come into the top on the port lay line back up in 4th and close to the top 3. Down the run with some nice surfing waves and split to right gate to head out left again. Can see a big rain squall that should favour the left but doesn't get to us before we get to the top mark. Down the run close to Craig and then it hits, a huge gust and we handle it pretty well but Hayden's eyes are very wide and we are very close to Craig's transom so go low and decide to drop the kite so no damage is done. Rob and Bruce flying down kite up and smoking, pass us just before the line and the contest is over.

Great regatta with some great racing and a good class to be a part of.

See you all at the next one.

Overall Results:

  1. 3091 BUSINESS - Hayden Percy/Scott Pederson
  2. 3840 FFRENETIC - Murray Gilbert/Jon Burgess
  3. 3832 BLOWFFISH - Craig Coulam/Adrienne Reikke
  4. 3714 JAFFA - Rob Ward/Bruce Yovich
  5. 3508 LOAFER - Brian Kent Hamish McGill
  6. 4003 THE GODFFATHER - Sally Garrett/Neil Easton
  7. 3087 IFF - Jenny Price/Allison Howitt (first silver boat)
  8. 3740 FFLYING CLOUD - Chris Field/Maria Ferrario
  9. 3841 FFENE - Fred Price/Dave McIntyre
  10. 3541 SNAFFLER - Chris Reid/Graeme Robinson
  11. 3839 GRAFFITE - Andrew Taylor/Greg Taylor
  12. 3552 GUSTBUSTER - Roger Knightly/Jill Knightly
  13. 3823 FFOT FINISH - Nigel Sibun/ Ollie Gimberg
  14. 3534 FFANTOCCINI - Julian Bishop/crew
  15. 3166 BIG CHUNGUS - Mathew Smith/ Liam Holroyd

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