Sunday, 16 December 2018

WHITIANGA WEATHER

A tradition reignited

By Mercury Bay Boating Club youth sailing coach Jonathan Kline

For a few hours last Sunday, the waters just in front of the Mercury Bay Boating Club came alive with colour and movement. Juniors sailors from the Boating Club’s youth squad, together with a large group of volunteer coaches and supporters, participated in the first centreboard regatta of the 2018/2019 season. Eleven yachts - comprised of an open fleet as well as a multihull fleet - crewed by 17 junior sailors and four helm coaches competed in a two-race series. Conditions were just about perfect, with plenty of sunshine and a shifty northerly quarter wind that challenged the coaches and sailors alike. 

In years past, the Boating Club hosted a variety of centreboard regattas, but over time the centreboard fleet waned and larger keel boats became more popular. But now, with a vibrant youth sailing programme in its second season, the Boating Club’s junior sailing coaches and volunteers wanted to re-ignite the tradition of these centreboard regattas.

This was the first real race for our junior sailors - most of whom had never raced before - and the coaches were determined to provide the participants with the same atmosphere they might encounter at a regional regatta. 

The course was exactly what sailors might encounter at the Waikato Sailing Championships, aligned with the wind in such a way as to require all the sailors to tackle all points of sail. Bright orange marks, set by the coaches and volunteers, formed a triangle. As it was laid, the course forced each sailor to race upwind (close hauled with lots of tacking), reach across the wind - fast and fun - and run downwind (sails eased, gybing all the way). There were a variety of boats in the open fleet, which meant that some yachts had the advantage on the upwind legs, while others were quicker reaching or running.

Ten minutes after the open fleet set off, the multihull fleet - made up of four identical 16-foot Hobie Cats, jockeyed for position and shot across the start line. These powerful catamarans each had a skipper/coach as well as two sailors from the club’s Learn to Sail 1 or Mentoring programmes on board. Hobie Cats are known for their colourful sails, quick acceleration and speed. They can be a handful, especially on a small course with other monohull yachts. 

It did not take long for the larger Hobie Cats to reel in the smaller monolhulls. Fortunately race officer and volunteer coach Russell Chaney had insisted on a triangle that featured two additional apexes. The open fleet sailed a smaller triangle while the Hobie class rounded marks that formed a slightly larger triangle. This made the mark roundings safer, but still fostered plenty of interaction among the yachts as they criss-crossed their way towards their respective buoys. 

As in all sailing races, each yacht and crew were forced to cope with whatever cards were dealt to them. This is what is so unpredictable and engaging about sailing. The boat is the microcosm, the small world in which sailor, yacht and ocean exist. 

After two races, all the yachts beached at the Boating Club, with an army of volunteers to assist them through the surf and up above the high tide line. By then, the BBQ was hot and steaming sausages were handed out to hungry mouths. Coach Russell then issued the results of the day.  In the open fleet, Sam McDonald and Tinca Samson tied for first. Sebastian Ross took second while the double handed Hobie 14, sailed by Olivia McDonald and Sophia Barakat, placed third. 

In the multihull fleet, it was skipper Fred Acke with his junior crew of Maria Davenhill and Annabelle Kline who grabbed the top spot on the podium.

The Mercury Bay Boating Club would like to thank Countdown Supermarket for their generous contribution to the sausage sizzle. The youth sailing coaches would also like to thank the volunteer parents and club members who supported the regatta as beach masters, safety spotters, photographers, RIB drivers, timers, chefs and mop-up crew. We could not have done it without you. 

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.