Five Wakatere Starling sailors headed down to Queen Charlotte Yacht Club in Picton for the 2013 Starling National Championships. Racing took place over 5 days in the school holidays from Monday 22 to Friday 26 April.
The team travelled on Friday and Saturday by road to Wellington and then ferried across to Picton. Promises of heavy rain and 35 knot winds across the Strait were thankfully not met, and the crossing was fairly sedate. After a meal at the Picton RSA, it was off to bed ready for tomorrow.
Sunday was the big preparation day for the team. The weather was somewhat dreich, with rain and no wind. Pre event training plans were cancelled, but the time was well used with various last-minute maintenance projects.
Today was the first day of racing at the 2013 Starling National Championships, which are being staged at Queen Charlotte Yacht Club in the Marlborough town of Picton. The day began with extremely calm conditions inside Picton Harbour, and after a briefing, launching was delayed while the Race Committee went to find some wind.
The ‘D’ flag was raised at around 1100 and the fleet began to launch. Due to the very light wind, most boats were towed out of the harbour, stopping to letthe Kaitaki ferry cross. As the boats were towed around Mabel Island, a squall came through, bringing a decent breeze but also a fair amount of rain.
The rain came and went, and so did the wind. Yellow was the first group to start at around 1300, with the one sailor OCS being Wakatere’s own Sam Wallis which was unfortunate. Blue started 10 minutes behind. The wind started off well, but dropped away during the race. Yellow were able to finish, however Blue got becalmed around Mark 2. Luckily a light breeze picked up and it was just enough to get the fleet down to Mark 3, where the course was shortened, with the race taking just over an hour to complete.
Race 2 was postponed for a while, in order to wait for some more consistent wind. It looked like the wind was going to shift around to the right, but eventually the breeze settled in the same northwesterly direction. Yellow were in a starting sequence at around 1500, however there was a general recall, forcing a restart under Flag U. Blue again followed shortly afterwards. This time a good race was achieved, with the wind holding in (although shifting around) for the whole course.
After this, everyone sailed in and packed up quickly, as it was starting to get dark. Results of the day were:
Sam Wallis - OCS but then a solid 6th. Chris Coleman a promising 18th and 25th. Levi de Lisle 46th and 53rd, Louis Mayo 49th and 30th and Kate Stewart 34th and 41st.
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.
A brilliant day for Sam Wallis with 1st, 2nd & 10th placings. Chris Coleman and Kate Stewart also did well with 16th, 20th & 21st and 23rd, 32nd & 23rd respectively. Levi 47th, 52nd and 46th and Louis 44th,50th & 47th.
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 topics.
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. Sam finished 7th, 7th and 15th, which easily put him in the Gold Fleet. Chris also secured Gold Fleet with 21st, 16th and 33rd. Meanwhile Louis, Levi and Kate have something to aspire to for next year.
(Apologies for the Silver Fleet bias for the next two days as that is where this writer was.)
Today was ANZAC Day, and for that reason there was to be no racing until 1300, with many attending the Picton Dawn Parade (this writer not included due to late night for AGM attendees). 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, including the entire Wakatere Silver contingent :(, paid a heavy price, with some losing up to 30 places in one beat!
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 iwas often totally unpredictable.
All in all, a sub-par start to the Final Series for Team Wakatere, with most losing a few places. However Kate Stewart was able to go from 44th in the first race to 14th in the second race which was a good improvement.
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 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 on the course 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 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.
Sam Wallis improved on yesterday and finished the regatta with a 4th and a 10th, which was enough for an overall 15th placing, which is very decent in such a large competitive fleet. Chris Coleman finished 39th and 48th, making 47th overall, but in the context of things, any result in the Gold Fleet is solid.
Kate Stewart was the top Wakatere Silver Fleet sailor in 14th, finishing the regatta with an 8th and a 20th. Given she had very little experience in the Starling this was a credible result. Louis Mayo finished a disappointing 39th, but 34th and 24th made the last day a better one. Levi de Lisle finished 46th with a 40th and a 35th.
The championship concluded with a prize-giving and a tasty carvery dinner. 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 considering that the wind was mostly light for the entire period and often very shifty but the weather was mainly fine, with only a few cloudy periods, and little rain. Queen Charlotte Yacht Club did an excellent job of organising and were very hospitable. Fun was had on and off the water and our group enjoyed the hospitality, of Seamus's Irish Bar (and I’m sure that they were very grateful for our custom) and the Beachcomber Inn provided ideal accommodation.
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 to also thank 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.
Thank you to the coaches who have helped the Wakatere fleet this season - Finn Drummond, Rob Hielkema, Ben Goodwin, Sam Bullock and Francisco Lardies.
Also thanks to the Wakatere Boating Club for providing support boats for coaches and parents. The great photos are by Neil Wallis. And of course a super big thanks to the parents!