Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Sailing: Local shines as shield resurfaces

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PROUD MOMENT: Joel Kennedy holds aloft the Wihau Shield with past TYPBC commodore Gary Smith, left, and TYPBC centreboard chairman Greg Scott.
PROUD MOMENT: Joel Kennedy holds aloft the Wihau Shield with past TYPBC commodore Gary Smith, left, and TYPBC centreboard chairman Greg Scott.

A celebrated piece of Tauranga's sailing history was reinstated last month after a gap of 19 years.

The Wihau Shield for P Class competition had been won by such luminaries as Craig Monk (twice), Ray Davies, Geoff Senior, Aaron McIntosh and Simon Cooke.

Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club's (TYPBC) centreboard chairman Greg Scott knew its history well as being a three-time champion himself and he had wondered what had happened to the trophy.

When his son Max began sailing a P Class in 2014, Scott reflected on his own P Class sailing - the huge fleets, the competitors, the Tanner and Tauranga Cups, and the Wihau Shield.

Last year he found out the hugely impressive 13kg, 90cm x 70cm trophy had lain discarded under a bench for almost 20 years at the Rotorua Yacht Club.

Tauranga's P Class committee had approached the Rotorua club a few years earlier asking if they would entrust the Wihau Shield to the TYPBC on a long term loan.

"The Rotorua Sailing Club is the home of the Wihau Shield and this is where it's going to stay," was their response, Scott said.

So he pitched the idea again and this time found an ally in Robin Parr, commodore of the Rotorua Yacht Club.

"Because it was too big for the trophy cabinet the Wihau Shield had been shoved under a bench in the tower, and even during clean-ups, no one took any notice of it," Parr said.

"So why not give it the light of day. I was confident TYPBC could keep it safe and it would be great if they reinstated the competition."

With the Wihau Shield back in its rightful home at the Tauranga club, Scott rallied support from North Island clubs and organised the regatta, which was held on March 8-9.

"The support I received was unbelievable. All I did was come up with the idea and everyone got behind it. We need to find a space in the calendar so all the P Class sailors have the opportunity to compete for the Wihau Shield," Scott said. "With Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club being the home of the P Class and with the club taking great care and custodianship of this fine little youth training boat, it was a gathering that was just meant to have been."

Local takes honours

The first day's racing for the shield was delayed for the 17 sailors from the upper North Island. With no wind, Tauranga Harbour looked like a millpond.

Before 1pm a nice little rain front came through with the wind lifting up to 18 knots and the starter's gun resounded across the harbour.

The racing was close between three Tauranga sailors in the first race, which was won by Lachlan Dillon, with Joel Kennedy and James Barnett within a boat-length.

Sydney Cuncliffe (Lake Taupo YC) and Tim Roper (RAYC/Torbay YC) won races two and three before Kennedy took out the last race of the day. Tauranga sailors Niamh Dillon and Samantha Kennedy, Blair Mellsop and Josh Blackie all sailed well to be competitive.

After rigorous checking of the day's racing it was Joel Kennedy, Sydney Cuncliffe, James Barnett, Lachlan Dillon and Tim Roper who qualified to contest the Wihau Shield the following day.

A lack of wind again delayed the start but finally at 3pm the breeze reached 8 knots, enough for racing to begin. The competition was tight with less than a minute between the five sailors in each race.

Kennedy held on to become the first winner of the Wihau Shield in 19 years, with Barnett a point back in second ahead of Cuncliffe in third, Dillon in fourth and Roper fifth.

The rest of fleet sailed four races for the Secretaries Cup with Niamh Dillon (Tauranga) first, Nicola Wilson (MYC/OYC) second and Braedyn Denney (Tauranga) third.

Kennedy was the best-placed sailor from Tauranga at the recent Optimist nationals and along with Dillon will represent New Zealand in Sri Lanka at an upcoming international regatta.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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