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New Zealand Flying Fifteen National Championship at Lake Wanaka
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New Zealand Flying Fifteen National Championship at Lake Wanaka

February 9th to 11th 2024

It is currently summer in New Zealand. However, Wanaka put on every sailing condition from no wind and 30 degrees to freezing rain and 30 knots for the 2024 Flying 15 National Championships held February 9 to 11.

Lake Wanaka is nestled in the Southern Alps, fed by glaciers and surrounded by snow-capped mountains for half of the days of the event. The area is known for adventure sports, including the largest Flying 15 fleet in New Zealand.

Six Flying 15s made the 2-4 day journey (depending on whether your tow vehicle was electric or not) south from the North Island, with nine local boats joining the fleet.

Day 1 Lake Wanaka was bathed in sunlight, with warm Northerly breezes. National Race Officer Brett Wilcox started two races in 2-5 knots of breeze. The first was shortened at the bottom mark. David McIntyre and Jill Oates won the race, with Sarah Reynolds and Peter McArtney second. David and Jill were ecstatic. David usually crews and Jill is a visitor to the NZ fleet from Canada who has never sailed a National Championship.  

Light weather specialists Murray Gilbert and Job Burgess sailing Ffrentic won in the second race, just in front of Sally Garrett and Neil Easton on the Godffather.

Saturday dawned still sunny, but the weather forecast was for a Southerly change and rain. Sailors wrapped up in many layers before setting off in 15 knots with large puffs rolling down the lake from the North West. The fleet rounded the top mark in one of these puffs. The Godfather was the first to hoist and was able to successfully gybe in 25 to 30 knots just off the lee shore; from there, they led to the finish—second Ffrentic and third local crew Lily Grimshaw and Rob Darby on Ffltye of Ffancy.

The course was then engulfed in rain, with temperatures plunging below 10 degrees. The fleet was held on the water until the breeze settled, then three more races. Series races 4 and 5 were won by Phill Quinn and Angus Jamieson racing Blowfish. Phil has been away from the class for some time, sailing his last nationals in 2008. Second in both races was the consistent pairing of Sally Garrett and Neil Easton.

Flyte of Fancy won the final race on day 2 sailed by local sailors  Lily Grimshaw and Rob Darby. The crew won the pin end of the start and lead from there. Second was Jenny Price and Alana Pooley sailing Ffortune. The sun came out as we returned to the ramp, making for a relaxed evening at the club for paella and the local Brewski beer.

Sunday, again, was warm and sunny, but mountain weather meant the wind never filled in. After an abandoned start and consultation with the two other National Race Officers assisting on the start boat, Brett Wilcox sent the fleet ashore.

Congratulations to our new 2024 National Champions, Sally Garrett and Neil Easton, sailing the Godfather. Sally is the first female helm to win the Nationals in NZ—just 1 point behind in second, four-time National Champions Murray Gilbert and Jon Burgess. Third place went to Ffortune, sailed by Jenny Price and Alana Pooley, the first ever all-female crew in the top 3.

The first Silver boat was Ffinisterre - Peter Swale and Tom Akass; the first classic was Wellington-based Daren Courtnage and Alan Sweeny sailing Ffidget.

A unique feature of the event was four female helms in the top 5, with a 50/50 gender split of sailors across those crews. In total, 30% of the sailors at the event were female, including three all-female crews. The youngest sailor was Ab Fab owner 14 years old Thomas Jurczyluk. 

The 2024 NZ Nationals was a much bigger event than just the three days of racing. Auckland sailors arrived a whole week before the event, sailing in Wanaka Yacht Club regatta the weekend before. The Jaffa's - NZ slang for Aucklanders, gave away second-hand sails and helped with boat and rig setup. Class President Sally Garrett, along with Sarah Reynolds and Jenny Price, gave a talk about the logistics of going to the Fremantle World Championship. Local sailor Lily Grimshaw and Jaffa David Mcintrye both gave rules talks. FFI Chief Measurer Graemem Robbinson was onsite three days before the event and measured all the local boats.

The next NZ Flying 15 National Champs will be held in conjunction with Bay of Islands Sailing Week; FFNZ is working on ways of getting Wanaka boats to the event.

Report by Sally Garrett

Photo credits as per photo names

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