Hi everyone and sorry for the lack of news, but the Nationals concluded on Friday. I was not able to get reports posted, partially because the internet at the Beachcomber Inn Hotel was very expensive – $6.99 per half hour! Here are the reports for days 2 -5.
Day 2 – Tuesday 23:
The second day of racing at the Starling National Championships began with very calm conditions inside Picton Harbour. However the Race Committee reported that there was wind outside, and the ‘D’ was raised at 0930. The Starlings were hooked up to RIBs and towed out to the course area.
As the cruiseliner had left, the logging ship that was anchored in the bay was able to return to the port. This meant that we had more space to lay a course and did not need to go all the way out to Allports Island.
The orange flag was raised at 1055 and the warning signal for race 3 ‘yellow’ fleet was made at bang on 11am. Unfortunately this start was a general recall and the race was restarted again under ‘U’. Blue then went into their starting sequence, and again had a general recall.
Some weather forecasts were predicting winds of up to 20 knots. This did not eventuate, and winds were mainly light, probably averaging around 8 to 10 knots. The wind gusted to around 15 knots at times, and there were also lulls of very little wind. The key was being able to connect those gusts together to make sure that you are always sailing in the most pressure. The RC attempted to shift the marks to compensate for the changing wind direction, but the constantly changing breeze meant that it was only possible to lay for the average direction.
Race Officer Gerald Martin was strict with his starts, using the U flag for each race this day. This kept the fleet well back behind the line. All 3 scheduled races were completed today.
Day 3 – Wednesday 24:
Today was essentially a carbon copy of yesterday, with wind moving between about 315 (NW) and 270 (W) on the compass. Again the absence of much wind in the harbour required a tow out the course area for the Starlings, which was laid in a similar position to yesterday.
Again the first race of the day (Race 6) began on time. This time, the fleet were able to stay behind the line and both starts got away under Flag P. Race 7 was started quite swiftly after the finish of the first race. Race 8 was slightly delayed, as the good run with clear starts was over and both groups had a general recall, again seeing a switch to Flag U.
After racing it was back to the club to appreciate some Marlbrough mussels and salmon. Then the Starling Class AGM saw a lot of passionate discussion debate about various things. With 8 races completed, the qualifying series had been completed and the fleet was split into a Gold (upper half) and a Silver (lower half) group.
Day 4 – Thursday 25:
Today was ANZAC Day, and for that reason there was to be no racing until 1300, with many attending the Picton Dawn Parade. People started arriving at the club from around 10.30am and launching and towing began around an hour later. There were a couple of showers of rain in the morning, but by the time we were on the water, the sun had come out and it was nice and warm out at the course area.
Upon arrival at the course area, there was very little wind to greet us. However around 15 minutes before the scheduled first warning signal, a light breeze built from a northwesterly direction. The start was postponed for a short while as the course was laid, but by around 1310 the start sequence for Gold was underway. This was a massive failure of a start, with many boats well over the line, forcing a general recall. The restart under Flag U was also unsuccessful, with too many boats over. After a third attempt to start under Flag U, the RC pulled out the Black Flag and finally the start was away.
The Silver Fleet also mucked around with the starts, and after two general recalls their start was underway on a Black Flag as well, over an hour late. For this race, the wind stayed light at around 6 knots or so. For the Silver Fleet, there was a large right hand shift on the second beat up the inner loop, and the boats that went left (this blogger included) paid the price (in my case, losing over 30 places).
The second race of the Finals for the Gold was underway just after 3pm, however silver fleet was postponed slightly, due to the delays in starting. The RC used the Black Flag to start both races. This time for the Silver fleet, playing a centre left track worked out reasonably well. What the wind was going to do is often unpredictably, especially when it is light.
Day 5 – Friday 26:
The last day of championship racing saw a return to an earlier start, with only two races scheduled today to allow an early pack up. Wind Guru had been forecasting fresh winds today, but no one believed them as they had been forecasting that all week! Predict Wind was forecasting lighter winds, and the sky state the previous night had suggested light winds for the final day of racing. However, people were surprised as we awoke to rather strong winds, with the trees blowing around.
For the first time during the week, a tow was not necessary and we were able to sail out to the course area. The wind was extremely inconsistent with very strong gusts and then very light patches coming through. The wind was very light as we went across the channel and around Mabel Island, but once we were out into the Sounds, there was a decent breeze. The wind never really increased to anything particularly strong during the day, and was much lighter than inside in the harbour.
The Race Officer, keen to get racing away as quickly as possible skipped Flag P and went straight to U for the first race. The start got away cleanly in around 12 knots or so. However a minute or two into the race, there was a significant starboard hand wind shift. This left the RC with no choice but to abandon the race.
After this, the wind failed to settle in for some time. The wind was strong enough, but the direction was highly variable. AP was signalled and the orange flag removed while the course was moved. After a lot of waiting around, and moving of the course area, the restart was finally underway at around 1245, with the Silver fleet following just behind. At this stage the wind was averaging at around 15 knots, with the odd gust of about 20.
During this race, for the Silver Fleet at least (can’t comment on the Gold Fleet as I wasn’t there unfortunately!), the right was quite favourable, with the exception of a short left hand phase about halfway of the way up the second beat, which penalised those who hit the starboard lay line too early.
Following this race, the Race Committee went straight into a second race. Unfortunately a general recall meant that the Gold fleet started under a Black Flag. The Silver got away with just one boat over. By this stage, the wind had begun to drop and by the finish, was around 10 knots or less. This was the last scheduled race of the championships and with that, everyone headed ashore.
The championship concluded with a prize-giving and a carvery dinner – which at $10 per head was good value for money with delicious ham and lamb and a vast selection of salads on offer. First place and the 2013 Starling National Champion was Trent Rippey of Tauranga. Runner up was George Gautrey from Muritai Yacht Club (in Wellington) and in third was Leonard Takahashi-Fry from Murrays Bay Sailing Club (North Shore,Auckland).
It was a very successful regatta, with the wind light to moderate strength for the entire period. The weather was mainly fine, with only a few cloudy periods, and the most of the rain was finished before the racing began on day one. Queen Charlotte Yacht Club did an excellent job of organising this regatta and were very hospitable. Thanks should be given to the organisers and everyone who helped, as regattas require an army of volunteers. Gerald Martin was the Race Officer and he did splendid job. Running races in the Sounds is not an easy job and making a decision about whether the conditions are fair to race in or not is tough. It is important thought that Gerald’s helpers on the signal boat, pin boat, finish boat and the mark layers (who have a particularly hard job when laying marks in over 30 metres of depth). Thank you to the Protest Committee – where chairman John Bullot was ably assisted by judges Alistair Daines, Mike Alison, and Hana Maguire. These people do a thankless job and really do help keep our sport clean.
After the regatta, it was back to the hotel for a good night’s rest ahead of an early 5.30am start to catch the 7am Arahura Interislander Sailing to Wellington. The ferry was reasonably empty, with many sailors onboard. After getting off the ferry, we began the long drive home, which was mainly smooth, with a brief lunch stop at Taihape, it was a 12 hour trip in total, getting to Auckland at exactly 7pm. One of the things that I enjoy most about sailing is the travelling to different parts of the countries and fun is already had on trips away.
In terms of how this blogger went, it was not a good regatta from my perspective. My starts were okay (which was frustrating) but I seemed to be losing places all time up the beats. I was hoping to qualify for the Gold fleet, but did not even come close, so it was a very poor regatta. However, there is not too much point in dwelling on that and focus must be on the future.
Here is a link to regatta webpage with final results and event reports.