New Zealand, Brass Monkey Championship 2011
Napier sailing Club
Report by Ben Morrison
The Brass Monkey Championship is the main winter event for the OK class in New Zealand, and is always popular. 2011 was no exception, with 21 boats competing and no quarter asked or given on the water.
This year was notable mainly because it marked the final OK regatta for current world champion Karl Purdie, who is leaving us to campaign for the Finn Masters world title.
Day 1 was forecast to blow from the NE and build from 15 knots up to around 25 knots fairly rapidly. As is often the case in Napier, it didn’t happen and we had a great day’s sailing in breeze ranging from 10-15 knots, with few passing lanes upwind, a moderate swell and long reaches rewarding downwind speed above all.
Four one-hour races were held back-to-back, a real test of endurance for those sailors who had expected an easy winter sail, and it played right into the hands of the ultra-fit Purdie, who smashed everyone and took four victories in a truly impressive display. The biggest surprise of the day came from Napier veteran Nigel Mannering, in the wilderness for the past few years but seemingly coming from nowhere to post a 2-3-2-3 scorecard. On reflection, Mannering has always been known for his downwind speed and has probably sailed more miles in those particular conditions than anyone else in the fleet, and so in hindsight he was always going to be dangerous. The increasingly consistent Luke O’Connell performed well as expected, as usual making most of his gains on the reaches, his 5-2-3-2 day putting him solidly in 3rd, while Ben Morrison and Steve McDowell rounded out the top 5, with a big gap back to 6th.
Day 2 was bright and sunny, with patchy, difficult breezes veering from NE and NW and ranging from 5-10 knots. Three races were sailed to complete a full seven-race series.
In Race 5, Luke O’Connell led around the first mark and turned on the after-burners on the reaches, extending out to a massive lead which was never seriously challenged. Purdie sailed around the course on his own to take 2nd while Steve McDowell took 3rd (and sailed into 4th overall).
Race 6 was run in an increasingly unstable breeze, and Nigel Mannering led the first triangle, only to be caught up the next beat (by Morrison and Napier’s returned prodigal son Chris Fenwick), then regain his lead just before the top mark and hold on to the finish with Morrison 2nd and Fenwick 3rd. A raised fist and cry of joy from Mannering showed just how much the well-earned bullet meant to him.
Towards the end of Race 6 the wobbly NE breeze was compromised increasingly by gusts from the NNW, and Race 7 began in a NNE breeze that, frankly, could have gone either way. Mannering and Morrison headed left from the start and came out in front with a big margin over the rest of the fleet. O’Connell fought his way clear of the main bunch and almost closed the gap on the leaders by the bottom, taking the lead with a sensational right-hand gamble up the beat and then holding off a series of challenges until the finish to take a tight victory over Morrison and Mannering, as well as 2nd overall and the coveted Tiki.
It was an uncharacteristic final day for Purdie with results of 2-8-5, and this was no doubt due to the emotion brought on by his impending departure from the class. In any event, he did just enough to win his last OK regatta (and third consecutive Brass Monkey) by 2 points over O’Connell in 2nd. Mannering took the bronze in a sensational performance, while Morrison was 4th and McDowell 5th.
Throughout the contest all competitors were well looked after, with excellent meals at the Napier Sailing Club on Friday and Saturday, an even better prize-giving dinner at the Gin Trap on Sunday, and a great entertainment programme for the wives and families.
Special thanks must go to:
- the race committee who did a superb job and ran seven competitive races in trying conditions;
- our event sponsors The Gin Trap, NZ sailing, Raisyes, Settler wines, Ocean Spa and Monkeys Fist Yachting; and
- event organiser Marty Weeks, without whom the Brass Monkey would not happen.
We wish Karl Purdie all the best with his Finn campaign. As always, Purdie arrived at the 2011 Brass Monkey fit, with his boat tuned and his mind focussed on winning. The NZ fleet will all need to be careful that, with Purdie gone, they do not let standards slip. Even without taking Purdie’s results into account the NZ fleet currently dominates world OK sailing by any measure, and that is not a position that we want to lose.
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