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New Zealand, 2015 National Championship

Royal Akarana Yacht Club, Auckland

27 Feb - 1 March

Photos and videos on Event Website

By Bob Smith

The 2015 New Zealand Ok Dinghy Nationals were held from 27th Feb to 1st March as part of the 2015 Oceanbridge Sail Auckland regatta, and were sailed from Royal Akarana Sailing Club. It was the third time the OKs had joined Sail Auckland and the expectation was for another fine event. A forecast of very light winds caused some concern among the ranks, but in Auckland the weather never stays the same for long, so everyone expected some wind at some point.

Peter Lesters boat minus transom ©Lissa Reyden
Transom off ©Lissa Reyden

After a 2 hour postponement on Friday the fleet launched and headed out in to the Hauraki Gulf for the first two races. Once on the course, a long way from the launch site, the 5 knot northerly steadily died until there was nothing except the heat – recalling the famous “Painted ship upon a painted ocean” line from Coleridge. For while we had a breeze from the east which looked promising while the RC set a course up, but within 20 minutes that breeze had died and black clouds were forming over the city. Bushy said it was the fault of the Manukau mud flats (on Auckland’s West coast). The first lightning crack woke everyone up followed by rumbling skies. Several flashes later the sea had become charged and many sailors experienced shocks through boats and spars as the water discharged. Then a squall blew through and the RC sent us to Rangitoto wharf for cover where many of us stood around on the reef. Peter Lester, excited at being able to compete in his first nationals since before most of us were born, reached at full speed straight onto a submerged reef and pulled his transom clean off. One good thing came of it, though: the writer understands that, impressed by Lester’s seamanship, Tony Rae has put Lester’s name forward for the recently vacated navigator spot on Team Vestas.

Eventually the storm cleared and the wet sailors returned to the course where a light sou-wester (the Manukau sea breeze) was slowly building. We were sailing on the same course as the Fishbins (lasers and radials) and the Finns, so by the time we started it was late in the day and the breeze was in for some good sailing. World Champ Matt Stechmann made the best start and was off into an early lead. Halfway up the second beat Luke O’Connell and Eric Rone took a shift to the left and came out in front of Stechmann, to hold round the final lap to the finish. Race two was Ben Morrison from start to finish. Popping out mid line and finding a lane all the way to the left he took a big early lead and extended from there to win the race, and the Tiki, by a massive margin over O’Connell and Steve McDowell.

Saturday was a waiting day - no wind all day, blazing heat, and then the cricket started. At that point, on cue at 3pm, a light breeze sprung up again from the sou-west and the fleets were sent out. The course was a long way away and so, after 1 hour sailing to the start and another hour or so waiting for anchors to hold and lasers to finally work out how to start, the RC only managed one race - much to the frustration of all the fleets. O’Connell won the only race from Stechmann and McDowell in conditions identical to the previous day. The long beat home against tide and wind almost required the use of nav lights, with the fleet arriving home around 8pm.
Overnight O’Connell held a handy lead from McDowell and Stechmann, but with Stechmann’s Stag Do being held that evening, anyone could still have won depending on the evening’s outcome.
On the Sunday we started earlier to ensure two races were held and a series could be completed. A light five knot easterly was over the course and, for once, the fleet went out on time. In race four, O’Connell rounded first from Stechmann and Peter Robinson from Australia, and then on the second beat Alistair Deaves sailed into second ahead of Stechmann and Robinson. O’Connell finished first in the dying breeze with Stechmann just retaking second place on the line from Deaves and Robinson.

Luke O'Connell ©Brad Davies
Colt ©Brad Davies

So we needed one more race for a series and the breeze getting lighter all the time. O’Connell made a complete dog’s breakfast of the start, as did Stechmann, and so they headed out to the right in the hope of some deliverance. Deaves sailed well up the middle, while McDowell and Morrison went left, and anything could happened from there! At that point the right died, with Deaves rounding first followed by McDowell, Grant Wakefield and Morrison in that order. Down the run the wind died completely leaving it as a drifting race down to the gate. Fortunately the RC shortened the race to finish at the gate and with McDowell the better drifter, he crossed just in front of Deaves and, to everyone’s cheers, OK newcomer Tony Rae stole third on the line. O’Connell and Stechmann were deep, and it was a dejected-looking O’Connell for the long sail home, thinking he had choked at the final pass.
As the fleet sailed home, a beautiful nor-easter sea breeze laughed at everyone but no one minded as it was refreshing and an easy sail home – even better, Sefton Powrie had arrived in his stunning classic yacht and handed out some cold beers which even cheered O’Connell up (a bit).

On the sail home, all tried to work out who had won, and if there was a discard or not - but in the end it didn’t matter, and Luke O’Connell won his second NZ title in a row which is truly a sensational effort. Steve McDowell was runner up from Ben Morrison in third, with Alistair Deaves and Matt Stechmann rounding out the top 5.

Thanks to Akarana for another good event and thanks also to visiting Australians Peter Robinson and Grant Wakefield who were made honorary Kiwis with a presentation of NZ Team lifejackets. They will be back. Tony Rae also gave a moving speech, promising to buy an OK and thanking Miles Addy in particular for lending him a boat this time.

Many thanks also to the sponsors who provided all the prizes; Harken NZ, North sails NZ, Icebreaker Boats NZ, C Tech and Graham Arcus.
The next OK regatta, and final instalment in the 2014-15 NZOK Tour, is the Turangi International Open in April.

2015 National Championship - Results
1NZL546Luke O'Connell (Colt)
2NZL545Steve McDowell5.
3NZL530Ben Morrison4.
4NZL542Alistair Deaves17.
5NZL549Matt Stechmann3.
6NZL536Eric Rone2. RET25.0
7NZL498Johnathan Clough15.
8AUS750Peter Robinson12.
9NZL512Nigel Mannering9.
10NZL509Chris Fenwick7.
11NZL506Hamish Fenwick6.
12NZL511Rod Davis10.
13NZL533Rob Hengst22.
14NZL526Russell Wood18.05.031.0 RET20.08.051.0
15AUS736Grant Wakefield24.
16NZL531Adrian Coulthard14.
17NZL535Mike Wilde8. DNC16.060.0
18NZL524Tony Rae20.025.031.0 DSQ17.03.065.0
19NZL504Adrian Mannering19.
20NZL478Dan Bush13. DNC24.068.0
21NZL500Dean Coleman16.
22NZL555Michael Morrison25.017.031.0 DNC21.017.080.0
23NZL492David van der Wende11.
24NZL475Phil Coveny28.
25NZL548Chris Devine26.
26NZL502Nigel Comber23. DNC21.090.0
27NZL539John Shirley21. DNC31.0 DNC96.0
28USA490Dave Hall29.
29NZL472Marc Grise27. DNC26.0106.0
30NZL550Peter Lester31.0 DNC31.0 DNC31.0 DNC31.0 DNC31.0 DNC124.0