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2021 NZ Flying Fifteen National Championship
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2021 NZ Flying Fifteen National Championship

Napier Sailing Club 5-7th June

Napier Sailing Club hosted the New Zealand Flying Fifteen National Championship over the Queen's birthday weekend in New Zealand, 5 - 7 June 2021. Three races were completed on each day.  

Originally scheduled for early March, but postponed due to the Covid-19 restrictions, it was good to see 15 boats in the close racing throughout the series that was held on the waters of Hawke Bay, where the 2017 World Championship was contested. 

On Saturday, after a wait ashore for the breeze to fill in, a pleasant 12 - 15 knots north-easterly sea breeze and early winter sunshine greeted the fleet, who enjoyed the 1.5 - 2.0 metre ocean swells and close racing. 

Murray Gilbert & Jonathan Burgess, who were 3rd in the 2017 Worlds enjoyed their return to the same venue and won two of the first three races, only to pick up an arbitration penalty for a finish line incident in Race 3 that saw them end the day just a few points behind local crew Hayden Percy & Scott Pedersen, who had won Race 2 and finished second in the other two close races. 

Sunday was overcast and rather cooler, but the winds and sea conditions were similar for a further three tight races. The leading two crews each scored a win, while Auckland crew Brian Kent & Keith Hogan took an all-the-way victory in Race 5 that saw them move up to 4th place, just a point behind Sally Garrett and Neil Easton who had a very consistent day with two thirds and a fourth place. 

At the top of the scoreboard, Percy/Pedersen had a two-point buffer ahead of Gilbert/Burgess, so there was everything hanging on the outcome of the final three races on Monday. 

A strong wind warning was in place, but again there was almost no wind in the early morning overcast daylight and after a short delay ashore, the breeze was only about 10 knots when Race 6 got under way.  But then with practically no prior indications, a fierce frontal wind of 25 - 30 knots hit the fleet on the first beat, causing several boats to capsize and to run for the safety of the Inner harbour, leaving just nine boats to battle through the conditions. 

There was some amazing surfing in the big swells on the reaches, but it was hard work for all crews and for the race officials too.  The wind did ease off slightly during Races 8 & 9 with Gilbert/Burgess finishing fifth in Race 7, but then recovering to win the final two races. 

Percy/Pedersen, the lightest crew still racing, sailed brilliantly through the strongest of the wind to take the win in Race 7 and then followed up with solid second and third places in the Races 8 & 9, and that was enough to secure them their second National Championship title. 

The victory was even more meritorious when it is considered that their boat NZL 3091 is now more than 33 years old and they discovered when they returned to the shore that their starboard chainplate had almost pulled out of the hull. It would not have taken much more for that to have happened, and that would have snapped their mast and finished their regatta. 

The old boat is named ‘Fflorin’ in honour of its previous crew, the ‘Two Bobs’ Bob Thomson & Bob Gunson, who competed in the boat well after they were both over 75 years of age. 

The Napier Sailing Club only farewelled the second of the ‘Two Shillings’ a month ago at a funeral held in the clubhouse. When receiving their Championship trophy, Scott and Hayden talked of their sadness that Bob Gunson missed out on celebrating this great result with this young crew who were entrusted with the old boat.

by Graeme Robinson

[Full Results attached as PDF]

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