The NZ Yachting Trust Optimist Worlds Team are almost all home again now and recovered from their jetlag. Traveling half way around the world to compete at this intensity is a big ask.
Flying straight through was going to be a 30 hour journey, so the team elected to stay a night in Honk Kong on the way, to start the clocks adjusting, and to unwind after the usual rush to leave. Hong Kong to Faro on its own was a long haul, with a 5 hour stop in Frankfurt.
Hitting the 30 degree heat of the Algarve coast was a bit of a shock, and the team were straight in to their hydration regime. The expected team accommodation beside the marina had changed, and the NZL team along with a handful of others found themselves slightly isolated from the main accommodation, and a shuttle bus ride away from the Yacht Club action. The food tent for all meals was also at the Yacht Club, so the coordination of meals/shuttle/wake up/bedtime proved a bit of a challenge. The team’s fantastic new Astro boats were waiting for them, and got the NZL fit-out on the first afternoon. Thanks St Lucia coach Pieter for towing them down from the Astro factory in Barcelona. In to sailing on day 2. The winds for the whole event were generally under 10 knots, often significantly less. One day during training had full hiking breeze and had everyone smiling.
Three of the team had new J sails delivered directly to the regatta. They also had DSK foils delivered from Greece. These suffered a bit of a delay but got through measuring the day before opening ceremony. The sailors believed these were great for height and acceleration coming off the start.
255 sailors, the best sailors from each of 53 different countries. The tightness of the racing at this level was intense. Anyone who watched trac trac will have seen each fleet of 64 boats converging on the top mark in unison. From beginning to end, our sailors were searching for lanes. You needed to make decisions every few seconds, you needed to make them fast, and they needed to be absolutely on the money every single time. And a wrong decision, or one that was too late, meant 10 (or sometimes 50) boats would sail straight past you. So many lessons learned. You needed to be on your game straight off the mark, first 3 days qualifying with two races a day.
David Buchanan (Charteris Bay) revelled in the light airs, made superb starts and made very good decisions mostly out on the left hand side, for an amazingly consistent qualifying series of 16, 8, 8, 10, 10, 7. The going got tougher in the Gold fleet final series, finishing 36th overall.
Campbell Stanton (Murrays Bay) also just squeaked in to Gold with qualifiers of 17, 20, 12, 44, 20, 9. He started gold fleet finals well with a 29,26, but then fell away as the wind got even lighter and shiftier to finish 55th overall.
Gavin Ninnes (KYC & FBYC) was next, improving from 154th position after day 2 to finish 109thoverall. Gavin left the race course on the last day on a high when he pulled off a great last race, despite having a bad start he used the coaches advice to get into a clear lane just off to the right, allowing him to play the fleet to improve his race to finish the last race 4th in Silver fleet.
Henry Wilson (MBSC) was 3rd best qualifier after some sparkling form including an 8th and 15th. He had some other top placings in line, until being dumped by unlucky shifts. Unfortunately a DSQ in the second finals race, and only one drop allowed, meant his drop was gone. Once again, in the final race, Henry was running 5th in to the top mark when a major shift went against him and dropped him down the fleet, finishing the series 113th.
Seb Menzies, our youngest Murrays Bay entrant, qualified 4th NZer, and also made it to silver fleet. Remember there were two more fleets of 64 boats each below silver, so silver is still a major achievement. Seb was devastated at the start of race 5, when the base plug fell off the mast and he couldn’t sail the race. He did a fantastic job to bounce back for a 22nd in the following race. Seb carried on to finish 121st in the 255 boat fleet.
The team did a great job to be all in the top half of the fleet, all in gold and silver out of the four fleets. NZL finished 17thnation. Another perspective is the NZL result at worlds over the last few years, showing just what tough competition this is:
After 6 straight days of regatta racing, the next day was Teams racing. The boys kicked off with a win over Serbia, but then went down to Italy. Italy had finished 4th and 11th in gold, as well as taking the first 3 places in silver fleet. NZL had one more chance to stay in the game, if they beat Russia in the last race of the day. It was a drift off which didn’t work out for NZL. The race went over time limit, but the race committee didn’t let on, took finishing positions, and declared Russia the winner. By the time NZL realised what had happened, the 2 minute protest time had elapsed. On this technicality, the NZL protest was disallowed, and they were out of the final day of racing.
Thank you for a pile of hard work by Team Manager Briar Dye-Hutchinson, and Coach Sam McKenzie. Thanks to the St Lucia team that we shared support RIB with. Thanks for the great organisation of the Vilamoura organising team. Thanks to the parents present for their constant running around and support. And thanks for the support throughout the season from Murrays Bay club members.
Thank you for the support of the NZ International Yachting Trust.