The 2017 Flying Fifteen National Championship acted as a prelude to the 21st Flying Fifteen World Championship, hosted by Napier Sailing Club on the waters of Hawkes Bay.
55 competitors from Australia, Canada, Great Britain and Hong Kong took on the kiwis in an early indication of form before the worlds to be held in Napier from Sunday 26 February - Friday 3 March.
Three very testing days of sailing in light and shifty conditions with a huge swell rolling into the bay causing havoc for race management and competitors.
Day 1 of racing was a soft introduction into things to come with a light 5 - 8 knot breeze from an E/NE direction, but the big swell made it very difficult for competitors to see the end of the start line, let alone the windward mark!. It also proved very testing in mark rounding’s, the gate zones and crosses on opposite tacks. There were a number of general recalls and inevitably the black flag became a menace.
However the team that coped best in the conditions were Ashley Smith and Adam Kingston from Queensland, Australia, who were sailing a Hong Kong registered boat. They picked up two bullets and a fifth to take an early lead.
Matthew Owen and Andrew Reed from Canberra YC (AUS) also sailed well in the light and shifty conditions to score a 4,1,6 to hold second after day 1.
Geoffrey and Tom Bayliss (GBR) from Hayling Island SC were the next best consistent top 10 boat with, (2,7 & 10) results. Top New Zealanders sat in 6th, Aaron Goodmanson and Alister Rowlands from Charteris Bay YC.
Day 2 of the championship delivered unseasonal rain showers and more unpredictable winds from the South East which provided another test for the sailors and race management alike as the fickle breeze swung either side of Bluff Hill, the hill overlooking Napier city and the port. This meant changes in direction up to 60 degrees! and lots of pressure patches.
Despite a lot more broken starts, two aborted races and more issues with the swell, two more races were finished under dark grey clouds. The British mob started to shine with previous Flying Fifteen World Champion, Charles Apthorp, sailing with Alan Green from Ireland, taking the first race of the day from start to finish from another former world champion team, Nick and Janet Jerwood from (SoPYC) in Western Australia. The Jerwoods counted two seconds to rise up the rankings into contention. The second race was won by Brits, Greg Wells and Richard Rigg from HISC/Royal Windermere YC just pipping the Jerwoods by a nose on the finish line.
Matthew Owen and Andrew Reed (AUS) kept up their consistent low scores as did Ashley Smith and Adam Kingston (HKG) and the kiwis from Christchurch, Aaron Goodmanson and Alister Rowlands.
After a long wait, the sun came out and the breeze finally shifted back to the East for the last day of racing to allow for a total of 7 races to be sailed. Locals from Napier breathed a sigh of relief as the final race started late afternoon in a more normal 10 - 12 knots in a slightly more regular spread out swell.
With the championship wide open and many of the top 20 boats carrying big double digit scores, it became really important to get off the start line in the first tier and able to get round the crowded top mark in good shape. It then became a case of the rich getting richer and the chasing pack struggling to get clear air and stay in contention.
Unfortunately for regatta leaders Ashely Smith & Adam Kingston (HKG), they got tangled up in two shocking starts and had to count a 36th and a BFG, dropping them down the pack. There were two new names taking race wins on the final day, race 6 was won by David Yu and Chris Nelson (AUS) from (RFBYC) in Perth and in race 7, the gun went to Jeremy Davy and Martin Huett from Draycote Water SC in the UK.
Whilst a number of the usual front runners also suffered bad results, Matthew Owen and Andrew Reed from Canberra and Aaron Goodmanson and Alister Rowlands (NZL) remained consistent to fight for the title in the last race.
Both got off to good starts at the pin end of the line but the New Zealanders got a bit buried in the pack at mark rounding’s, picking up a penalty but battled back to finish 12th. However the Australians Owen and Reed having recorded their worst result of the regatta (a discarded 12th), stayed focused in the final race to cross second and claim the Open title.
Goodmanson and Rowlands sailed a very good regatta series to finish second and in a high quality field and Charles Apthorp and Alan Green (GBR) closed out third overall with some consistent sailing on the final day.
Special mentions also went out to second placed New Zealanders, Hayden Percy and Scott Pedersen representing the host club Napier SC, they finished top Silver boat and 13th overall just in front of Murray Gilbert and Jonathan Burgess from Royal Akarana YC in Auckland. in 15th.
First of the Classics in a very respectable 39th overall was Nicholas Heath and Philippa Noon from Cam SC/Grafham Water SC in the UK. They frustrated a number of top fifteen worlds contenders with a 15th in the penultimate race.
Competitors have a rest day on Saturday with the 21st International Flying Fifteen World Championships beginning on Sunday 26 February - Friday 3 March, 2017.
Overall Results Open Fleet (top 10 of 55 entries, 7 races with 1 discard)
1 AUS 3684 Matthew Owen / Andrew Reed 4,1,6,6,5,(12),2 = 24pts
2 NZL 3739 Aaron Goodmanson / Alister Rowlands NZL 3,12,(17),3,4,4,12 = 38pts
3 GBR 4004 Charles Apthorp / Alan Green 5,10, (30), 1,12,8,4 = 40pts
4 GBR 4030 Greg Wells / Richard Rigg 8, (39),15,7,1,2,9 = 42pts
5 AUS 3986 Nick Jerwood / Janet Jerwood 6,16,8,2,2,(18),10 = 44pts
6 GBR 4005 David McKee / Mal Hartland 9,9,14,5,3,(22),5 = 45pts
7 GBR 3760 Jeremy Davy / Martin Huett (20),11,9,8,20,7,1 = 56pts
8 HKG 3972 Ashley Smith / Adam Kingston 1,5,1,4,10,36, (56/BFG = 57pts
9 GBR 4021 Steve Goacher / Tim Harper 12,6,16,16,9,(19),3 = 62pts
10 AUS 3743 Greg Tonnison / Andrew Jackson 11,13,2,13,23,5,(26) = 67pts
For full results and more information visit: www.napiersailingclub.org.nz
The 2017 Flying Fifteen New Zealand National Championship and the 21st Flying Fifteen World Championship host club is Napier Sailing Club.
Major sponsors and supporters include: Lexus of Hawkes Bay, Napier City Council, The Food Company, Nelson Signs, Napier Port, GWR, Marineland, EricksenHonda, Clearview Estate Winery
More photos are available via facebook
facebook site: /www.facebook.com/FFW2017Napier/
by Jonny Fullerton, on behalf of the International Flying Fifteen Class