It’s all wrapped up for another year and what a year this has turned out to be at the Starling Nationals 2019 held at Taipa Sailing Club. Taipa was where the North Islands was sailed, which was a very different regatta than the nationals. In comparison to the North Islands where we sailed nine races over three days in a pleasant breeze, that was not to happen at the Nationals. We sailed 12 races at this year’s Nationals, and there were only three races in the whole regatta with a reasonable breeze.

Leading up to the regatta the forecast was looking very promising with moderate breeze majority of the time and potentially heavy wind for one or two of the days. However, this did not come to fruition, and the regatta was predominantly light apart from the last race on three of the days bringing reasonable breeze. The final race of the regatta was one that allowed me to stretch my legs and show my potential in the breeze.

Going into the final race, I knew that the results was close and that it was all to play for. Starting the race I had to get myself to the front, this was hindered by an incident on the start line that affected me through other boat collisions, so I was one of the last off the start. However, very quickly considering I was hiking, I brought myself up to the top 10 by the top mark. On the downwind, I battled to get clear air being ghosted by several other competitors but broke free just before the bottom to lead to the left-hand gate mark which was favoured. From there I was the first to go round that side with approximately five getting to the other one before me. I knew I had the speed out the right and brought myself up to the front by the top.

This is where the regatta was made or break. I was in a position to move into first, but Nathan was close behind I did not want to risk the boats nearest me messing up. At the time I worked the points out as two, so I decided to go back and attempt to take out the competitor. After hustling on the downwind, I realised there was the potential for me to break away on the downwind and catch up on the reach to the other two sailors that I had let through. Unfortunately, I left it to be long and only managed to catch up to behind one boat by the bottom. I looked back and saw a couple of boats was surrounding Nathan and maybe one would pass. At this stage, I thought two boats needed to be between, so I circled back to him coming around the bottom mark. I let him through to leeward and locked him to the right. Pushing him to the right of the finish boat meant I could lead him to the finish. By this point, I noticed that I could not put two boats between us, so I had to put one. Coming into the finish, Nathan was astern, and there was a boat coming to the finish on port. I floated high to the line to finish first of the pack, the boat that came on port tacked to come in second, creating a gap between Nathan and me.

Going into prizegiving I worked it out that I could win but did not know for sure, so was expecting my name to be read out for a second. But then it all changed when then read out me for first, HISTORY! I am so proud to be the first Starling sailor to win three Starling Nationals but also Back to Back to Back. It’s still sinking in, very surreal. Big thank you to all my friend’s that I have made in the Starling for such an enjoyable four years and my brother and sister for their ongoing support. Most of all my parents for organising me and coaching me through my sailing and the regatta.

The photo above is me with the original owner and builder of m boat “One Shade Of Grey”, Jeremy Mitchell after prizegiving. I’ve been interviewed by Yachting New Zealand and also the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron who I sail for. For more details on the event and supplemental information check out this article written by Andrew from RNZYS.