New Zealand, 2014 Brass Monkey
Napier Sailing Club, New Zealand
31 May - 1 June
Wolf of Wakatere Nails the Monkey
By Bob Smith
Smooth American import Eric Rone is being called "The Wolf of Wakatere" after hunting down elusive wind shifts (and other prey) with seeming ease to take out the 2014 Brass Monkey in the OK Dinghy class in Napier over Queen's Birthday weekend. Rabbits, Colts and even deavious Englishmen were no match for the Wolf as he made light work of some very light, very shifty conditions to claim his first regatta victory in the OK class.
There was a frenzy of activity at the Napier sailing club on Friday, with several locals and a few keen out-of-towners arriving early to get in a sneaky training sail and try to acclimatise to the cold.
Race 1 started on Saturday morning with a light offshore southerly breeze with easterly swells rolling in and creating their own breeze and current, making upwind sailing extremely difficult. The 34 boats jostled on the start with Russell 'Mudsy' Wood claiming the pin and jumping out of the blocks with an early lead, heading for the left corner and extending to a huge lead at the top mark followed closely by Jake Weeks. Weeks closed the gap down the reaches, but Wood held on and showed that he has secretly been developing a light air specialty, sailing a brilliant race in dying breeze to take out the win. Behind him however the term 'take your dorkings' never held more meaning with a big left shift and a complete order change from the bottom mark. Eric Rone charged in from the left to take 2nd, closely followed by Peter Scheuerl, Alistair 'Deavious' Deaves and Marty Weeks.
With the wind now just little zephyrs the fleet made it was back down to the start line to await the next race. Time was spent enjoying the Hawkes Bay sun, chatting and even catching up with current events from a newspaper. After making sure there was no chance of getting another race away, the race committee called off racing for the day meaning Wood claimed the Tiki for winning the last race of the day.
The evening was spent discussing the day over a delicious Hawkes’ Bay BBQ and a few buckets of loud-mouth soup.
Race 2 on Sunday was postponed briefly due to lack of wind. With the top left side of the course looking favoured with a left shift that bent round the Napier hill most of the fleet headed for the dairy. Wolf Rone was first to the top mark and sailed away from the fleet to take a comfortable win. Deaves finished 2nd, Matt 'Stechy' Stechman took 3rd, and Jono 'Rabbit' Clough piped Rob 'Santa' Hengst on the line to take 4th.
Race 3 was changed to a windward leeward course. Luke 'Colt' O'Connell finally regained his form after taking some time to get used to his new aero package and was first to the top mark, followed closely by Clough. These 2 held a 10 boat length lead over the rest of the fleet at the bottom mark. O'Connell chose to go to the dairy again with Clough setting up to the right. After an unusual shift Clough rounded the top mark 5 boat lengths in front. An epic match race took place in the short beat to the finish: with O'Connell closing in fast and chucking tacks at Clough like Mike Tyson throwing hooks at Larry Holmes, the Rabbit hopped away and held on to take a great win by the proverbial gnat’s whisker. Rod Davis sailed a good race to hold off Deaves for 3rd with Mike 'Oscar' Wilde taking 5th.
Another windward/leeward course was set for the 3rd race of the day. Rone had yet another great start and this time held a good lead at the top. By this stage all (well, most) of the fleet had their boats tuned for the light conditions and the mark roundings were more congested than Auckland at rush hour. This led to some spirited exchanges at both bottom marks, showing how competitive and passionate every member of the fleet is. Great to see – bring back the biff! Meanwhile, the Wolf looked to be loping ahead with ease, but didn’t count on the Colt who pulled out some of his well-known magic to close the gap, set up another match race from the bottom mark and take the win by half a boat length. Deaves sailed another consistent race to finish 3rd, while Nigel 'Captain' Mannering sailed a great race for 4th and Bill 'Downwind Flyer' Macky announced his presence with a good 5th.
On the start line of the last race of the 2014 Monkey it was all on the line – for the Monkey title, for Worlds qualification, for pride and, of course, for the mighty Tiki. To add to the drama, a big dark cloud had formed over the Napier hill. Would it bring wind or suck it away - not even the locals were sure. Tiki Fever struck with two general recalls, and you could have cut the tension with a knife. With the start finally away, Clough wriggled his way to the top first, with the rest of the pack within spitting distance. O'Connell took the lead down the reaches, and headed left up the following beat together with Rabbit Clough, while Wolf Rone and the Deavious One headed right with the rest of the fleet trying desperately to catch up. The top bunch converged in the middle of the course and it was anyone’s game. Just meters from the finish, the wind shifted left and O'Connell claimed the Tiki, just holding out a fast closing Jake weeks. Rone claimed 3rd followed by the ever-consistent Deaves. Chris Fenwick took 5th, while newcomer Chris “Junior” Coleman had a great last race in his first ever OK event to finish 8th.
With a drop coming in to play, Rone had taken out the Brass Monkey trophy and his first OK title. O'Connell finished 2nd, Deaves 3rd, Clough 4th and Jake Weeks 5th.
Prize giving was held at the Thirsty Whale, providing a wonderful feed and a good time was had by all. A moving speech was given by Rone, who is clearly loving the OK and is making to most of the opportunities that come with it, taking the chance to expand his Wolf Pack. Special thanks must go to Marty Weeks who has organised the regatta for several years, and his business Monkeys Fist Yachting, and also of course to all the volunteers on land and on the water.
2014 OK Worlds Qualification
As well as being an important annual fixture for the OK class, this year's 'Monkey was also the final event in the qualifying series for NZ sailors hoping to claim one of the spots available for the 2014 OK Dinghy Worlds, being sailed at Black Rock in Melbourne at the end of this year. With NZ allocated 16 spots, and Mike Wilde, Alistair Deaves and Germany-based Greg Wilcox being entitled to automatic entry due to being OKDIA officers and, in Wilcox’ case, a former World OK Champion, that means there will be 19 Kiwis sailing in Melbourne in total. In addition, Eric Rone will be sailing for the USA.