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Sail-World NZ - March 22: Three-peat in the JJ's..Cup shakeup..The Starling story

by Richard Gladwell, 21 Mar 22:13 GMT 22 March 2020
Dave McDiarmid, Matt Steven and Brad Collins - Honda Marine - JJ Giltinan 18ft Championships - March 2020 - Sydney Harbour © Michael Chittenden

Welcome to's New Zealand e-magazine for March 22, 2020

Apologies for the break in newsletters but it has been quite a week, for everyone.

Of course, the highlight of the week has been the win by Honda Marine in the JJ Giltinan 18ft Championship in Sydney.

It is the third successive win for Dave McDiarmid, Matt Steven and Brad Collins, and arguably it should have been their fourth after their Appeal was upheld on the 2017 event, but only went to a re-hearing a few weeks before their first win in the JJ's in 2018.

That win was the first for a New Zealand crew since 1974 when the McDell brothers and Peter Brooke sailing Travelodge won on the Waitemata.

Honda Marine is just the third boat in 18ft skiff history to win the JJ Giltinan Trophy on three successive years, and the first non-Australian boat to achieve that feat. In addition, all the wins were on Sydney harbour - which has long been a graveyard for New Zealand hopes of winning the trophy since it was first sailed in 1938.

Honda Marine won four races, in the nine-race series, finishing out of the top three in only one race.

Before he left for Australia, Dave McDiarmid told Sail-World that their preparation was a little late this year, due to the birth of a daughter, and really only got into the boat after New Year. He also hadn't watched a single race of the Sydney 18ft season on Youtube. They had a couple of new jibs from North Sails NZ, and that was it.

They had been pushed in New Zealand by C-Tech (Alex Vallings), and Maersk sailed by a young crew, in their first season together. Four boats contested a very windy New Zealand nationals, while the Sydney-siders enjoyed lighter breezes. In the JJ's there was a good mix of breeze - often all within one race. Their ability to change gears, get good starts (in the front row), and always keep the race leader under pressure gave Honda Marine their winning edge.

Dave McDiarmid and his crew made some very astute calls around marks. They were usually able to make a better call than the locals, often picking up a better wind angle and more pressure, which paid huge dividends on occasions.

If you'd not known any different and had to pick the boat with the best local knowledge, it would have been Honda Marine. Theirs was a remarkable performance in many respects.

America's Cup World Series

Despite the virus, mid-week there several of the Olympic classes were out training, being joined by Emirates Team New Zealand sailing their test boat Te Kaahu. (Sorry, macrons play merry hell with many content management systems, ours included - and the spelling Te Kaahu is, we are assured, an acceptable alternative form.)

In this edition, we have covered the cancellation of the America's Cup World Series Sardinia, and currently the teams and fans are are awaiting a decision on the second regatta, America's World Cup Portsmouth. That response is largely out of the hands of regatta organisers - with governmental edicts changing the situation daily.

Emirates Team New Zealand's decision to build a test boat, launched between the first AC75 and second, and likely race boat, looks more inspired by the day.

It is clear that the development work is continuing apace, and that will be the team's new focus, with at least one of the ACWS regattas gone, and the second in limbo.

In this edition we have covered the Arbitration Panel's decision confirming that the ACWS Sardinia will not proceed/ was cancelled because of a force majeure. That's an important legal phrase, which largely relieves the organisers of any contractual financial fall-out from the event cancellation.

In the story, we cover the chain of events, and timelines with American Magic lodging their Application to the Arbitration Panel on March 5. About a week later, Emirates Team New Zealand clearly frustrated with the indecision from the Challenger of Record organisation (CoR36), issued their own statement saying it was clearly impossible to proceed with the event, due to the obvious situation with COVID-19, in Italy.

That was followed by a statement from Luna Rossa complaining that the Kiwis had called the regatta off (something that only CoR36 can do), and it was strange for the Italians to make that claim. On March 18, The Arbitration Panel ruled on the American Magic Application and put an end to the conjecture declaring the event to be cancelled.

Sardinia had largely escaped the scourge in the north of the country, (with only one notified case on the island and another three Sardinians hospitalised on the mainland). The decision by the Italian government to impose a country-wide lockdown saw some 11,000 people, according to the SardiniaPost, move out of the worst affected regions in northern Italy, to their holiday homes and elsewhere on Sardinia. Sadly we now see in this morning's edition of the SardiniaPost that there have now been six COVID-19 deaths on the island.

While Luna Rossa continued to sail after returning to the water following her dismasting and a scheduled upgrade program. A few days later, she ripped her bowsprit out of the boat, leaving a big hole in the bow area, and Luna Rossa's sailing program will be on hold until that situation is rectified.

On Thursday ETNZ CEO, Grant Dalton told Sail-World in response to a written question as to whether ACWS Portsmouth was going ahead? "At this stage yes" he replied". "But we will need to make a decision very soon. No teams are affected by us, delaying a decision. Only ETNZ is on a ship - so we, in fact, are the most affected. Any announcement (either way) needs to be coordinated with the sponsor, Emirates, and Portsmouth City."

Of course, like many other sports, it is possible for a sailing event to take place in a "closed stadium". In fact having grandstands of fans watch a yacht race is the exception rather than the norm. Although logistically difficult it may be possible to have the teams quarantined in their bases, or close to it, and for the event to continue as a TV only regatta.

The Brits are exiting Cagliari, and are expected to ship their AC75 Britannia back to Portsmouth, and government dictates willing, should be able to continue training on the Solent during the oxymoronic English Summer.

Luna Rossa will need to know if they are required to ship to Portsmouth. It is understood that American Magic's Defiant is packed and ready to go - to Portsmouth or Auckland. Emirates Team New Zealand's AC75 is on a ship heading for Italy. "It is still on route to its original destination, Italy at which point it will continue to the UK or be turned around," Dalton told

The NZ team, who is the organising authority for ACWS Portsmouth, will work through the options and make an early decision.

Interestingly British PM, Boris Johnson, has declared that, by following the latest Government strictures, the UK will have emerged from the lockdown in three months. That is just three weeks after the currently scheduled date for ACWS Portsmouth. So maybe a postponement in Portsmouth is an option. The ebullient PM seems to be rather more focused on dragging the Brits through the COVID-19 era and out the other side, by whatever short-term means is required, rather than the "it will take however long it takes" approach adopted elsewhere.

Of course, the other option is for the teams to head straight to New Zealand and set up. However, the recent Coalition Government's ban on all incoming visitors, with no end in sight, creates a problematic situation which will have to be negotiated. Of course, any members of the teams who are NZ Nationals can enter.

But the reality is that there is little point in the team counting on being able to go sailing in New Zealand before September 1 - marking the end of the Kiwi winter.

The base construction is well underway for the British team. Italy has had some foundation work done, and American Magic, we are told, will start soon.

If the teams can get here and set up early, then if necessary, it should be possible to set up temporary bases on the extra-base land on Wynyard Point, using containers with a flexible roof, similar to that used by ETNZ in Bermuda, to assemble/outfit the AC75's. Obviously, there are other facilities in Auckland that can be used for fit-out. However, time is running short, even for Auckland, with September 1, just five months away.

There is the option for more regattas to be held in New Zealand, which will please Kiwi fans. Any changes in regatta dates, or frequency, needs to be signed off by both the Challenger of Record and the Defender yacht clubs.

Decision Tokyo

Turning to the 2020 Olympics, the crunch time is nearing. The main issue is that only 57% of the athlete places have determined by either qualification/been selected by National Federations/achieved qualification times.

For the final Olympic Sailing places it is obviously possible to go back to 2019 results. But that is not the case for other Sports where selection is made by the achievement of Olympic qualifying times/marks - and typically many of these places are determined in last few months/weeks leading into the Olympics. There are about 11,000 athletes expected in Tokyo, meaning there are about 4,700 places yet to be determined.

With the global lockdown looking likely to continue for three months, it would seem inevitable for the 2020 Olympics to be postponed for a year or more probably two.

For Sailing with a massive 50% of Olympic events slated to change between 2020 and 2024, it would not seem possible to effect that degree of change, and for countries and programs to gear up within just two years. On that basis, it would seem likely that the 2020 events will continue for 2024.

The Starling

Despite the lack of racing events, we expect to have plenty of good content coming up in Sail-World.

In this edition, we feature a chapter on the Starling class from Brian Peet's excellent book "Des Townson - a sailing legacy".

Des Townson was a champion yachtsman turned self-taught New Zealand designer. He was one of a cadre of top designers, builders and sailors including Jim Young, Bruce Farr, Laurie Davidson, John Spencer, Paul Whiting and Ron Holland who came from a similar background.

What set Des apart from his peers, was that he never designed to a rating rule, but instead created of a series of designs that were renowned for their beautiful lines, unique style, and delightful sailing characteristics. He had a very dry, self-deprecating sense of humour, claiming that he only ever worked for two years of his life. Another line was that people claimed he only ever designed one boat.

The Starling has been one of the great success stories of New Zealand sailing, producing two America's Cup champions, several Olympic medalists, and Volvo Ocean Race winners, along with thousands who have gone on just to enjoy and love their sailing.

The full chapter extract in this edition describes the Starling, one of New Zealand's best-known sailing dinghies. The Starling is probably the first dinghy in which a young sailor senses the feel of a responsive racing yacht. Many of New Zealand's top sailors have grown up with the Starling and have gone on to win the America's Cup, Olympic Gold medals, the Volvo Ocean Race and many World Championships.

Longtime family friend, Brian Peet has written and compiled the tribute to Townson's designs, life and legacy, the result is a book that is as beautiful as one of Townson's yachts.

If you are going to be spending some time at home over the next few weeks, order a copy and have it delivered to your address.

Des Townson - A Sailing Legacy can be purchased for NZ$80 via or email

Also coming up in Sail-World we will have a three-part series on the upcoming The Ocean Race; a couple of unpublished interviews with female sailors from the last Volvo Ocean Race; a new service to rejuvenate your trusty sunglasses; a look at the new Int Moth from Mackay Boats; Don McIntyre on a Round the World Race which has attracted a near full entry quota and much more.

Plus of course, we will be tracking the racing that is taking place, the America's Cup latest and all the other developments in the sailing world.

We're expecting to see people spend more time online in the coming weeks. If you are in business, recessions are the time when you should be spending more on advertising rather than less. Now is also an opportunity to look at new ways to get your business in front of a changing online audience dynamic - the Scrolling Generation.

Later this week, we'll share some of our experiences on working from home (and indeed anywhere in the world), so you can keep the frustration to a minimum, and be very productive. In fact, in our experience, you should find that you are twice as effective working from as home as the office.

Of course, the partial shutdown, in New Zealand also offers the chance to get in plenty of sailing - while we are still in the tail-end of Summer.

For all the latest news from NZ and around the world see the Top 50 stories below.

Between newsletters, you can follow all the racing and developments in major and local events on or by scrolling to the top of the site, select New Zealand, and get all the latest news and updates from the sailing world.

Good sailing!

Richard Gladwell
NZ Editor

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