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New Zealand, 2012 Turangi International Open

Turangi, Lake Taupo

17 & 18 November

by Chris Fenwick

The Turangi International open is always a favourite on the NZ OK Tour calendar. Numbers were down a little this year, due to an unfortunate clash with an opti regatta and the OK East Coast Champs being held the following weekend in Napier, but the real OK sailors turned up and yet another superb contest for the Golden Trout was run by Wally and his team at the Royal & Ancient Turangi Yacht Club. This year, Finn and Elliot 5.9 fleets were also racing, showing that the Turangi International Open is growing in stature.

Day One saw a moderate but shifty breeze out of the north. This provided entertaining racing as the sailors negotiated the wind shifts looking for passing lanes over five close races.

Matt Stechmann was the first to stake a claim for the Trout, winning Race 1 from Adrian Coulthard and Ben Morrison after a torrid battle in which the lead changed several times. In Race 2, Stechmann showed that he meant business by storming into the lead from the start and holding Morrison out for the entire race to take his second bullet on the trot. In Race 3, the relentless pressure of Turangi International Open racing began to show, and Morrison took a hard-fought victory from Stechmann. Meanwhile, Rob Hengst had notched up a couple of 3rds and was battling with Coulthard for the bronze. After three races the fleet headed ashore for lunch and to plan the afternoon assault before returning to the course for two more races.

Morrison seemed to find another gear in the afternoon session and swept both races with comfortable wins, while Stechmann finished the day with a 2nd and a 4th, still very much in it and just 1 point off the lead (after a drop). With a freakishly consistent 6,3,3,3,3 scorecard, the Napier campaigner Rob Hengst finished the day in third spot, with Coulthard 4th after a good day and the little charger Chris Fenwick in 5th after a 2nd in Race 5.

With racing over for the day, team Napier visited the hot pools while the Auckland and Wellington crews retired to the Morrison bach for refreshments. That evening the Turangi Yacht Club hosted a BBQ at its magnificent Stump Bay clubrooms, which was attended by all three fleets racing. As always the local club put on a fantastic meal that was very much enjoyed by all. As the evening progressed, the OK fleet passed around the traditional bowl of loudmouth soup and solved the world’s problems like no Camp David summit meeting ever could. Mike Wilde also entertained the fleet with his usual selection of dreadful alternative music (since he kindly donated an iPod dock to the premises, he was welcome to play whatever music he liked – some would say a mixed blessing).

Day Two saw a stiff breeze come cracking in from Mighty Mt Ruapehu to the south-west, bringing with it a sharp drop in temperature accompanied by intermittent but heavy showers. It was, in short, fairly nasty. In fact the morning breeze started out at a fairly manageable level but, as if planned, once the first sail was hoisted a freezing blast of 25-30 knots came pumping through and showed no signs of easing.

A combination of high wind, low temperature and heavy rain can do funny things to the mind, and with pressure building (both on the race course and in the sailor’s brains), the moment came when there was no more time to stand around discussing options and each sailor had to make his decision. With those decisions made, four hard men (Coulthard, Fenwick, Russell Page-Wood and Morrison) launched their mighty steeds into the seething cauldron of Lake Taupo, and six frightened little boys (who shall remain nameless) started de-rigging their boats.

As our intrepid four made their way out to the start line the breeze increased and the surface of Lake Taupo was whipped into an icy froth. It only took one freezing sheet of spray to the face for each man out there to realise what he was in for. Meanwhile Captain Wally, being flung about his old red committee boat like a rag doll, calmly laid the course, dropped anchor to set the start line, and fired the 5 minute gun. A few short minutes later it was game on. From the start it was evident that Big Russ was enjoying the stronger winds and when he crossed ahead at the first tack no-one was surprised - the “yeah baby” boomed across the course and it seemed inevitable that the power of the Muss would be impossible for his smaller competitors to match. But on the next cross, the world tilted on its axis as Morrison came steaming out of the right with a good shift and plenty of pace to cross Page-Wood and take the lead. A good battle ensued, with Morrison hanging onto his lead to the top mark and then making a small gain down the run. Meanwhile, Fenwick and Coulthard were battling for 3rdand it was hand-to-hand combat all the way. Morrison picked up a couple of quick shifts at the bottom of the next beat to make another gain, and at that point the pressure told on Page-Wood and the mighty blue OK was seen flipping violently onto its side and spilling the Love Muscle into the lake for an icy bath. From there it was all over and, as the wind dropped, the race became a procession. Morrison took the gun and the Golden Trout for 2012, Page-Wood recovered from his capsize to take 2nd, and Chris Fenwick sailed a fantastic race to just pip Coulthard over the line for 3rd and the bronze Trout.

With the contest secure, Morrison headed for the beach – followed by Fenwick and Coulthard. This just left Page-Wood on the course, and not ready to finish his day’s sailing. As four Finns were still out there, and the wind was back up to full strength, Russ put in a request to join in with the Finn’s final race and that was when one of the classic moments of the whole weekend occurred. When the gun went, the four Finns with their exotic sails charged onto the course while Page-Wood respectfully tacked behind them and started to work the shifts. Two-thirds up the beat and the Finns were battling it out in classic Finn style: in a tight little bunch, way out one side of the course (the wrong side) and completely oblivious to everything outside of the small patch of water they were occupying. That was when the Muss made his move, sailing up the middle of the course, with more pressure and sailing in the lifts, he made good time and then shook up the world by crossing a good 20 seconds in front of the nearest Finn, rounding the top mark to charge away downhill into a big lead. For a boat that is significantly shorter, with a smaller non-exotic sail and a relatively low-tech mast, to do that to a fleet of Olympic Finns in 25 knots is not something that anyone expected, and shows that when the wind is blowing, it is hard to beat the real man’s boat: the Mighty OK.

And so the Turangi International Open ended, with Morrison taking the Golden Trout, Stechmann the silver and Fenwick the bronze. Our sincere thanks to the Turangi Yacht Club for another brilliant contest.

2012 Turangi International Open - Results
1Ben MorrisonNZL 5303211116
2Matt StechmannNZL 524112241110
3Chris FenwickNZL 50946542318
4Rob HengstNZL 533633331118
5Adrian CoulthardNZL 53125656422
6Russell WoodNZL 52687465224
7Marty PikeNZL 536787771136
8Joe PorebskiNZL 52354811111139
9Matt PerryNZL 511 (458)999881143
10Mike WildeNZL 53511111111111155