New Zealand, Auckland Rum Bucket 2014
Wakatere Boating Club, Auckland
25 - 26 October
No races on saturday due to unstable winds.
On Sunday the wind got up to between 10 and 20 kn and 4 races were sailed.
By Bob Smith
The 2014 OK Dinghy Rum Bucket championship was held over Labour Weekend (25 & 26 October) at Wakatere Boating Club on Auckland’s North Shore. 31 entries made for a great fleet and, with a large proportion of the fleet now in full preparation for the OK Worlds in Melbourne at the end of this year, there was an atmosphere of focus and determination to race hard and make the most of the opportunity for some good fleet racing.
Competitors began arriving on Thursday night and Friday morning, many to have new boats and gear measured by official NZOKDA measurers Russ Wood and Al Deaves as part of their Worlds preparation. NZOKDA President Paul Rhodes, when interviewed, said “It is really great to see so many new boats, the fleet is looking really strong and we are hopeful of some good results for Kiwis at the Worlds”. With a few discrepancies picked up and to be fixed before Melbourne, the Kiwis will go into pre-Worlds measuring ready and confident their gear is legal. As well as hulls and spars, a large number of new sails were checked, with many of the front-runners now settled on the sail designs they will run with for the Worlds. Other competitors arrived early to get in a final pre-Bucket training session, but with strong winds blowing most opted for one or two beers and a catch up with fellow competitors before heading off for an early night.
Saturday dawned fine, with a few clouds and a light-moderate sou-wester blowing. After briefing by Principal Race Officer Oscar Paulich, the fleet put to sea for an 11.00am start. Unfortunately, just as OKs arrived at the starting area and began tuning up, the wind began to die and shift wildly in all directions. Also, a king tide early on Saturday morning created an unusually strong outgoing current, making upwind progress extremely difficult in the light, patchy airs. The race committee were undaunted at first, and launched the first starting sequence on time. With 1 minute to go the wind dropped even further and most of the fleet realised they would be very lucky to make it to the startline at all – at 10 seconds to go, most were heading rapidly away from the startline…backwards! 2 minutes after the start, with only a handful of boats actually on the course, the abandonment flag was raised to everyone’s relief. Sensible move from the big O on the start boat!
To cut a long story short, only one more attempt was made at a starting sequence, which was again aborted as the wind dropped away and the tide took over. All was not lost though - after a long peaceful day in the sun the fleet made their way (with difficulty) back to the beach, washed their boats, had a few beers and enjoyed a delicious gourmet BBQ cooked by the three wise men of Wakatere: Rod Davis, Sefton Powrie and Phil Coveny. Sitting on the front deck of the clubhouse, looking out over the Hauraki Gulf in the evening sun with a cold beer and a delicious steak dinner, it was hard to find anything to complain about.
Sunday was a very different affair – a cold and gusty 15-20 knot Westerly, with big shifts and sporadic rain to boot. There were no problems with getting racing underway and, with 4 races scheduled and all to count, it was game on right from the first gun. This time the strong current was pushing the fleet over the line, there would be several general recalls and everyone’s starting technique would be tested to the limit.
In Race 1, current NZ champion Luke “Colt” O’Connell followed the habit of a lifetime and claimed the favoured pin-end start, soon tacking to cross the fleet and take a lead he would never relinquish, sailing a brilliant race to stake an early claim to the Bucket. Russ Wood, looking very strong in the 15-20 knot breeze and flat water conditions, took 2nd while newcomer Matt Coutts, taking a break from fulltime Finn sailing, took 3rd. Mark Perrow, back in the OK fold with a brand new boat, was 4th while Mike “Oscar” Wilde showed real pace to round out the top 5.
In Race 2 the line was extremely pin-favoured and, with the massive tide pushing everyone over, there were two general recalls before PRO Oscar Paulich pulled out the U flag and everyone behaved themselves. In one of the gutsiest moves of the day, big Russ Wood started sensationally on port, slipping through a gap at the pin and rampaging away into the strengthening breeze to quickly establish a big lead while the rest of the fleet disentangled themselves from one another and got moving. Halfway up the first beat, Wood was well out in front with Perrow, Stechmann and Coutts not far behind. Oscar Wilde and Ben Morrison, meanwhile, were well left and looking for a breakthrough. They soon got it, when from out of nowhere Wood’s rudder came flying off in his hand and his boat flipped, while at the same time Wilde and Morrison sailed into a big gust and left-hand shift, dialling up and into 1st and 2nd , Wilde gloriously leading round the first mark and charging off down the reach in fine fettle. Morrison was able to eventually take the lead and, after a good battle he took the race from Coutts with Stechmann 3rd, Perrow again 4th and Brad Douglas 5th.
In Race 3, the line was again pin-favoured and this time the fleet started cleanly, with Coutts sailing a text-book race to establish an early lead and then defend it right to the end against a hard-charging Colt O’Connell with Morrison 3rd, Stechmann 4th and Paul “Gouch” Rhodes 5th in his brand spanking new Woody hull.Race 4 was to be the last race of the contest and going into it Coutts had the lead with 6 points, while Morrison was 2nd (10 points) and, we thought, Stechmann was 3rd (also with 10 points but without a race win). Unfortunately, as we would later discover, unbeknownst to Stechmann his boom had touched the committee boat’s anchor chain when crossing the finish in Race 1, earning him a DSQ and taking him out of contention in the no-discard scenario of a shortened 4-race contest. This propelled O’Connell to 3rd with one race to go on 17 points, out of contention for the title but with a podium finish to defend.
Race 4 was also the Tiki race, and no one is out of contention for the Tiki until the last race of the day is done, so there was still plenty to play for.
The final race started cleanly, with Dan Bush, O’Connell, Coutts, Stechmann, Morrison and Perrow all in the hunt. Nearing the first mark, O’Connell held a slender lead over Coutts but then made a fatal error – thinking he was clear ahead and needing to get to the starboard layline, the Coltosaurus attempted to cross Coutts and didn’t quite make it – upon being called for the foul, Colt did the right thing and immediately did his turns, taking himself out of the contention but maintaining his honour (this is more than could be said for many in the fleet, we are sorry to say, as a number of reports have come out since the event of competitors hitting marks, fouling other competitors and failing to do penalty turns). After taking O’Connell out, Coutts misjudged his own approach to the top mark and was passed by Stechmann, Morrison and Perrow who rounded in that order and headed off down the run in the freshening breeze. Stechmann held his lead all the way up the next beat, and looked to have the Tiki sewn up, only to have it cruelly snatched away when he sailed into a hole in the breeze while Morrison carried down a big gust to gybe inside and take the lead, which he held for the remaining 3 legs of the race to claim his first Tiki for the season. The real battle for the Bucket was now up to Coutts, who had to finish 4th or better to take the contest. With Stechmann and Perrow in front of him, and downwind flyer Luke O’Connell breathing down his neck and looking for revenge, it was far from over going into the final run. Coutts, however, showed nerve and skill to hold O’Connell off and then pass Perrow right on the finish to take 3rd behind Stechmann, and claim the Rum Bucket for 2014.
At the prizegiving, Coutts was presented with the magnificent Rum Bucket trophy, together with a bottle of fine rum (sans cap). Morrison, proudly wearing the mighty Tiki, also received rum for his 2nd place as did O’Connell for 3rd – a great effort from the Colt after his 14th place in Race 2.
Other notable performances came from:
- Mark Perrow, 4th in his first serious OK regatta after some years in the Finn wilderness
- Dan Bush in 5th and showing he is right on track for Melbourne
- Mike Wilde, pipping Adrian Mannering on count-back to take 6th
- Russ Wood, managing to finish just inside the top 10 after fighting back from last place (after losing his rudder and capsizing) to finish 21st in Race 2 – turns out every place counted, as in the end he only beat 11th placed Stechmann by one point
- Dean Coleman who revenged himself upon his son Chris (who beat him in the Brass Monkey championship in Napier earlier in the year) by taking 18th while Chris was 28th in the strong breezes
- Adrian Coulthard, NZOKDA secretary, improving all the time to break into the top 20 in difficult conditions.
Oscar Paulich also received a bottle of rum for his stellar performance as PRO in difficult circumstances, while a number of other prizes were kindly donated by North Sails, Southern Spars and Fosters/Harken, and those were handed out to the fleet in reverse order (starting from 31st), so that everyone who competed (and stayed for the prizegiving) received a well-earned prize.
Yet another superb BBQ dinner was then served, the Bucket was filled, and that is where we leave our band of intrepid sailors, eating good food, drinking good rum, and yarning the night away. Tough racing and good times with great mates. What could be better?
The event was generously supported by the prize sponsors, by Wakatere Boating Club who always run a fantastic OK regatta, and by PRO Oscar Paulich who the sailors say (if he doesn’t buy his own OK soon) would be welcome back at another OK contest anytime. There were also a large number of volunteers from the Wakatere membership, without whom the contest could not have happened.