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Toyota Optimist NZ Nationals: Consistency earns Matteo Barker the NZ title in Picton

by 31 Mar 23:26 BST
Winner Matteo Barker (4808) with second overall, Nathan Sopher (4801) - Toyota New Zealand Optimist National Championships. Queen Charlotte Yacht Club. April 2024 © Suellen Hurling

Matteo Barker is the 2024 NZ Optimist Champion in the just concluded Toyota NZ Nationals sailed at Picton in the the picturesque Marlborough Sounds.

The 14yr old Murrays Bay sailor topped the leader board for the 96 competitor Open fleet, with another 12 sailors in the White fleet, and 42 entries in the Green fleet.

Barker turned the tables Nathan Soper (13yrs) who finished second overall, after being two places ahead of Matteo Barker in the 2023 NZ Nationals.

Third overall was Will Fyfe (13yrs) also from the Murrays Bay Sailing Club.

Aside from the first day of competition, when the wind varied between 2 and 20 knots on both courses, along with massive shifts.

For the other three days of racing, the Toyota sponsored championship was plagued by light winds, making for some difficult decisions for race officials, and in the Open fleet only nine of the scheduled 12 races were sailed in the four day regatta.

Zofia Wells (13yrs) from the Glendowie Boating Club was the top female sailor, placing 8th overall and winning the first Final race in the Open fleet.

Toby Phillips (13yrs) in seventh overall, was the top international sailor from Adelaide's Brighton and Seacliff Yacht Club. A large team from New Caledonia competed with Martin Hauet (12yrs) representing Societe de Regates Caledonienne was the best performed from the French territory.

Luca Blundell (Charteris Bay) (12yrs) won the Open Silver fleet.

Angus James (10yrs) from Napier Sailing Club won the White fleet by a 1pt margin

Annika Wells (11yrs) also from Glendowie Boating Club, topped the 42 entry Green fleet.

Barker, watched by his America's Cup skipper father, was the most consistent of the top trio who finished 20pts clear of the fourth placed sailor. Matteo Barker was only out of the top five overall in one race (his discard), but only won one race, with the second and third placed boats overall winning three and two races each - all in the six race Qualifier round.

Competition tightened when the sailors were split into Gold and Silver fleets. Barker won the regatta in the Final series, scoring a very countable pair of second places, and had the luxury of being able to drop a 9th from the penultimate race. While the top three were well clear of the rest of the competitors in the Gold fleet, the points situation was very tight, putting the young sailors under real pressure in the shortened event with the light and shifting breezes adding to the racing stress.

Highlight of the event was the display of the America's Cup, taken to the venue to be a centrepiece for an America's Cup promotional video for Toyota, a long time-event and Emirates Team NZ sponsor.

Full results Gold, Silver, White and Green fleets:

Open and White fleets:

Green fleet overall:

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