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2023 Windfoil Nationals at Manly Sailing Club

by Tasman Rowntree 22 Feb 13:47 GMT 17-19 February 2023

There are not many occasions where international Olympic athletes compete on the same racecourse and rub shoulders with those who are competing in their very first nationals.

Nor are there many times a whole fleet of sailors head back to the Commodore's beach house for pizzas, beers, laughs and SailGP after a day of racing. It's not very often vying for World selection ends up feeling like a weekend away with 50 friends, but somehow last weekend's NZ Windfoil Nationals ended up being all of the above.

The forecast for the three-day regatta was looking pretty light with a slight hint of a sea breeze possible in the late afternoons. The perfect introduction to intense racing for the younger competitors, and a challenging curveball for our international arrivals who had just flown in from a breeze-on regatta in Lanzarote. For the NZL Windfoil mens squad this regatta would help decide which three competitors would be selected to represent New Zealand at the IQFoil Worlds in The Hague later this year.

Manly Sailing Club, the host of this year's Nationals divided the competitors into seven fleets and four starts to ensure that everyone was starting at a similar level and to ensure everyone's safety.

Day 1

D Flag went down on time and everyone headed out to the course area, unfortunately, the wind began to play hide & seek and after a while all competitors were sent back to the beach. As PredictWind had predicted the wind arrived at about 3:30 pm and racing began. All fleets had five slalom races followed by a course race to polish off the day, and the race committee did a fantastic job of banging them away.

The IQFoil Elite Men's Fleet consisted of 4 x Dutch windfoilers, 1 x Norwegian, and 5 x Kiwis. They are all training together in NZ before heading off to Europe to start their circuit next month.

Our Kiwi boys took a race or two to shake off the rust after five months away from international competition. This allowed the Dutch team an early lead and it was a marvel to watch them work in such tricky conditions. By Race 3 our boys had found their feet with both Josh Armit and Antonio Cozzolino securing a race win.

The 8m (youth, women and juniors) were also a very competitive fleet on Day 1, with our top competitor and NZL Sailing Team member Veerle ten Have kept on her toes by our up- and-coming stars. Veerle was just one race short of a picket fence first day due to the leading youth male Jack Parr stealing off with Race 2. Top youth female Amy Bright was never far behind finishing the day with very consistent thirds. It was great to see the massive increase in the level of racing in our youth squad as they push Veerle harder with every race.

Gold fleet had a bit more movement than other fleets did on Day 1, with Ian Young, Lloyd Perratt and Liam Herbert all trading wins throughout the six races. It was hard to pick the top three after Day 1 as everyone was looking incredibly strong.

In Silver fleet Devan Pickmere, Russ Evans and Tim Wood battled hard. Each taking away two wins. Russ was looking pretty good to be in the lead after Day 1 but unfortunately received an OSC and a DNC in races 4 and 5. After six races Tim and Devan were heading into Day 2 only one point apart.

In Manly Sailing Club style all the foilers were greeted off the water with as many pies as they could eat and a beer. The camaraderie amongst this fleet is unmatched, with sailors sticking around to help derig together, and chat long into the evening and thus endeth Day 1.

Day 2

Saturday morning bought even less breeze than Friday. Everyone sat onshore patiently awaiting the promised sea breeze. The real fruit ice cream cart conveniently parked in front of the club must have made a killing, at one point almost every competitor had an ice cream in their hand with some double-fisting too!

At around 2pm the breeze finally began to fill in. With the Day 1 slalom racing completed, the race committee planned to even it out with an afternoon of course racing. While the breeze picked up to 12 - 15 knots at times there were some huge holes on the course, and even some of the best foilers got trapped.

In the IQFoil Elite Mens fleet, every race counted. With the thought of Worlds selection looming over their heads, the pressure was on. This was evident in their starts, with several general recalls due to competitors jumping the gun in their angst. The slightly heavier breeze course racing started to shake up the fleet, and Josh Armit clawed his way up into second place after a race win and four seconds. Top Dutch wind foiler Huig Jan Tak hung on tightly to his first place with Josh closing the gap down to just 2 points. Thomas Crook made the biggest jump in the fleet going from tenth to sixth after claiming his first race win of the regatta in Race 9. Fellow team member Eli Liefting battled hard with Thomas in every race finishing right on his heels every time. WIth 11 races completed, one point stood between them.

Lloyd Perratt was the man to beat in Gold fleet, winning four out of five of Day 2's course races. Ian Young was never far behind however taking the only other race win of the day, and nipping Loyd's heels in every race. However, it wasn't quite enough for Lloyd to steal first place and with the hope of breeze on Sunday slowly diminishing Lloyd's day of victory and the likelyhood of him pushing Ian off his perch was growing slim.

Tim Wood charged into first place in Silver fleet winning every single race of the day (not bad for 66). The rest of the fleet put on an incredible performance marching their way around the extremely difficult course in such style. Most of these foilers have never done much racing and just foil for fun so it was great to see them giving it their all.

In the 8m fleet, Veerle was looking like she might finally get her day of wins, but in the final race of the day, youth male Jack Parr beat her to it. Veerle has just come off the back of placing 10th at the World Championships in October and is a top-tier racer, so for Jack to be beginning to give her a run for her money is a very encouraging sign. Aimee Bright was also always in the mix taking two races away from Jack and finishing not far from Veerle in second place.

After racing Manly Commodore, Barry Thom invited all competitors, race officers, coaches, and volunteers back to his home in Manly for dinner, beverages and the viewing of the SailGP. It was cool to see that the windfoil fleet is everyone's fleet - whether you are male, female, thirteen or nearly seventy, everyone was mixing and mingling like old friends.

Day 3

Some were more hopeful than others of racing on the final day of the 2023 Windfoil Nationals. Those with only a few points between themselves and the podium waited with baited breath as the race committee announced the schedule for the day. The call was made that if there was no sign of wind at 1pm we would whip the sausage sizzle out and crack into prize-giving. As time ticked on the ice cream truck was raided once again, and large card games broke out within the rigging area. One o'clock came around and the breeze was nowhere to be seen cutting the NZ WindFoil nationals a day short.

Well done to all of the competitors who gave it their all. Congratulations to all of the winners and a massive thank you to Manly Sailing Club for putting on an unforgettable weekend of fun and exceptional racing.

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