New Zealand, 2021 New Zealand National Championship
Napier Sailing Club, Napier
4 - 7 February
Report by Andy Phillips
A surreal feeling to be at an OK dinghy nationals in stunning Napier for a full compliment of 9 races in the midst of a pandemic. Rob Hengst and the team at the Napier Sailing Club put together a well-managed event with great racing in varied conditions.
The 41 competitors were treated to a full range of conditions from shifty offshore to the classic Napier NE’er. Big swells from the tropical cyclones in the pacific added another dimension again to a race course that never seemed to lack opportunities to pass, or indeed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The first start of the regatta saw a typically keen fleet pushing the starting line. Local Race Officer Andrew wasted no time in hoisting the U flag after an initial general recall, meaning anyone spotted over from then on would receive a 20% scoring penalty. That didn’t deter Jono ‘Rabbit’ Clough or regatta organizer and local Viking Rob Hengst from backing some solid transits to get away fast. Both showed a clean pair of heels up the first beat to round in the top bunch. Ben Morrison rounded the final gate with a small lead over Rabby, only to get caught on the wrong side of a right hand shift up the final beat, which Rabby picked to sail away for a well-deserved win, with Luke O’Connell and Steve ‘Lead Dwarf’ McDowell in 2nd and 3rd, to kick off the regatta well.
Race 2 had a click more pressure. A left shift at the top of the first beat had Ben Morrison reaching in on the port lay line to round first, gapping chasers Rod ‘Coach’ Davis and Andy ‘Lightning’ Phillips. It stayed that way on the two reaches and with the pack sailing fast there was no room for error for the front runners who found it all too easy to be swallowed up by a fleet that has made some speed gains over the last year. Morrison was able to extend away for a big win, while Andy “Lightning” Phillips sneaked past Coach on the upwind who held onto 4th, and Paul ‘Gouch’ Rhodes snuck in for a well sailed 3rd.
The final race of the day was Luke’s first bullet from Mark Perrow in 2nd and Andy Phillips in 3rd. Claiming the Mighty Tiki and the top of the leaderboard after day 1 was Luke, with Morrison and Davis in 2nd and 3rd tied on points. A beer and story session followed racing.
As the second day dawned it was clear that the small rainsqualls and offshore shifty conditions were going to play a big part. The race committee did a great job of getting the course as square as possible and another 3 great races in. Conditions were generally light, and again shifty offshore, with patches of pressure dropping in to play some pretty extreme snakes and ladders with the fleet. Rohan Lord came out swinging in the first race of the day and found an extra gear in his borrowed Ovington. Thomas Olds sailed a cracker of a race to finish second fending off Luke O’Connell who played some Tiki juju to take 3rd from a deep start.
The breeze strengthened for the next race and Steve Mcdowell pushed out to an early lead that he extended to finish on the top spot followed by Andy Phillips and Luke again posting a solid 3rd. But he wasn’t quite finished there….
Described by onlookers as someone ‘nailing it like a Roman Exectuioner’, Luke O’Connell’s dominant string of race wins in the final four races on Day 3 were an impressive display in a fleet and race course that took no prisoners. 3 days and 3 Tiki’s for the Wellington Hurricane Rigger. A job well done.
The battle for second and 3rd was a nail biter going into the final day as Andy Phillips managed to notch two races ahead of rival Steve McDowell. It was Steve who fired the final shot in the last race however, managing to put two boats between himself and Phillips to draw even again on points and take second overall with a race win to separate the tie. Well played Stevo.
Sailing an OK dinghy is arguably a solo endeavor. Managing to hold a national event with 41 competitors, race officials, numerous volunteers, supporters, friends and families attending during a pandemic was nothing short of an unprecedented national team effort. It was most definitely not taken for granted.
The prize giving was an unorthodox affair with the most rum going to those who finished in the “tens”: 10th place was John Cutler who is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with, 20th Mike Wilde and 30th, Ray Hall. Well-deserved recognition for some of the events unsung heroes drew the even to a close with a most excellent barbecue in the sun.
DNF, DSQ etc : 41pts DNC: 42pts