Friday, 26 April 2019


Sharing stories of T-bones, near capsizes and near misses

The Mercury Bay youth sailors took to the water once again last Wednesday and joined the adult keeler fleet for a stunning evening of coastal sailing. As the conditions were much lighter than the previous week, the coaches decided to train the juniors on monohulls rather than catamarans. 

With a large turnout of seven sailors (four girls and three boys) from both Mercury Bay Area School and Whenuakite School and with the goal of having as many singlehanded sailors as possible, the coaches had to assemble a variety of dinghies, ranging from Lasers, Microns and BICs to Starlings and even one “clinker-style” boat called a Seabird.

Mercury Bay Boating Club youth sailing coordinator, Jonathan Kline, was joined by veteran dinghy race coach, Russell Chaney, and Whenuakite Sailing Academy legend, Roger Harwood. Troy Aickin, Sam McDonald, Quinn Smith, Sophia Barakat, Olivia McDonald, Tinca Samson and Holly Smith made up the sailing squad for the day. 

Things kicked off with the junior sailors listening to a mock race briefing, just as they might experience if they sailed at a Waikato or Auckland sailing event. On an old blackboard at the clubhouse of the Mercury Bay Boating Club, coach Russell outlined several possible courses that would allow the sailors to work on all points of sail - beating, reaching, and running.  Thereafter, coach Roger met with all the children on the sand. Using his pocket knife to cut straight lines, he explained the difficulties and opportunities that presented each competitor when sailing close-hauled, as close to the eye of the wind as possible.  That was followed by coach Jonathan demonstrating a few of the skills required to sail upwind fast and efficiently. All the sailors launched and followed coach Jonathan, who, using parent Hugh Fairweather’s new Laser, led the group on several upwind training runs. 

While coaches Roger and Jonathan worked with the squad, coach Russell sped out into the Bay on the Mercury Bay Boating Club RIB to set up the course he had explained to the junior sailors. Thanks to several donations from the community of bright orange marks, anchors, and chain, Russell was able to set up a perfect race triangle. 

With the course set, Russell returned to the beach, as did the juniors having completed their upwind training runs. The course was explained once again and once all sailors knew where they were supposed to sail, coach Russell sped back out in the RIB to set up the starting line and initiate the five-minute countdown and flag sequence. 

The marks were aligned in such a way as to force the squad to sail two upwind legs, two reaches and one dead downwind leg. The competition was fierce in the starting area as the sailors came to grip with a few key racing rules. Manoeuvring in close proximity to each other was both exciting and a bit scary.  A big puff, followed by uncertainty as to which way to steer, put Tinca square into the side of Troy for a loud and memorable t-bone. 

All sailors got away cleanly and by the end of the first upwind leg, it was Sophia and coach Jonathan out in front, getting ready to lay the mark. Sophia had the edge, but with one tack to go, she tacked on to port while coach Jonathan ended up on starboard, with the right of way. Sophia had to dip Jonathan’s stern, allowing him to round the mark first and set off on the reach to the second mark. 

There were several lead changes throughout the race as each sailor came to learn the strengths and weaknesses of their particular boat. By the time the adult keeler fleet was returning from their Doctors-Simpson course, the junior sailors were back on the beach, sharing stories of t-bones, near capsizes and near misses. 



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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.