Kiwi teams part murky Bay waters for victory

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Olympics and Commonwealth Games swimmer Moss Burmester (third from right) helped the New Zealand team claim the 2016 Inter-Pacific spearfishing title in the Bay of Islands earlier this month.
Olympics and Commonwealth Games swimmer Moss Burmester (third from right) helped the New Zealand team claim the 2016 Inter-Pacific spearfishing title in the Bay of Islands earlier this month.

Home advantage paid off for the two New Zealand teams as they enjoyed a clean sweep in taking out both men's and women's titles in the 2016 Inter-Pacific Spearfishing Competition which wound up in the Bay of Islands earlier this month.

It was first time New Zealand had won the main (men's) event since 2007.

Competitors in the main event of the two day tournament competed in four-person teams representing New Zealand, Australia, Tahiti, New Caledonia, Hawaii and Guam, with the four teams contesting the women's title representing New Zealand, Hawaii, Guam and Australia.

With most of the countries used to tropical conditions, the spearfishers had to adapt to the challenges posed by New Zealand's temperate waters.

Once the spearfishers arrived at the designated area, marked out around 6km, the boats were anchored and the teams dropped off where they had to swim from spot to spot - a snorkel being the only breathing equipment allowed - for six hours without stopping or getting back on the boat.

A report from this year's championships noted the weather was not entirely favourable, easterly winds of up to 40 knots and a 2m swell which caused the visibility to 2-10m, well below par for the time of year, and which made scouting difficult for all divers looking for fish over 30m at times.

Day one (Friday, March 4) was held in a 20 knot sou-easter and good shelter was inside Cape Brett, although visibility was estimated at only around 8-10m. New Zealand managed to gather a good catch with their two pairs of divers and finish the day on top, just ahead of Australia, while the New Zealand women finished the day trailing to Hawaii by one fish.

Day two began with a similar forecast, winds around 15 knots from the SE quarter with fishing held on the outside Cavalli Islands.

It was close amongst most of the teams but the divers had to push through the fatigue. The men's pairs split up and fished well, picking up an even better catch than the day before to secure the outright win.

The women chose to spearfish the inside island for most of the day, picking up fish with the movement of the tide, with the New Zealand team making the better decisions to end up winning the day well ahead of runners up Hawaii.

All of the fish caught were auctioned in front of a large crowd which had assembled on Paihia's Village Green on Saturday evening. The proceeds from that raised an estimated $7500 for the Paihia Fire Brigade which will be put towards equipment upgrades.

Organisers noted spearfishing was becoming increasingly popular and was widely regarded as the most selective fishing method and also the least wasteful.

Results were, men: New Zealand (day one: scoring 100 per cent/ day two: 100 per cent, thus equal to a total of) 200 per cent, New Caledonia (87/87) 174, Australia (91/77) 168, Tahiti (76/87) 163, Hawaii (71/88) 159, Guam (35/74) 109; women: New Zealand (92/100) 192, Hawaii (100/79)179, Guam (36/88) 124, Australia (48/54) 102.

The New Zealand teams were, men: Geoff Crawford, Jackson Shields, Rowan Virbickas, Moss Burmester, Blair Herbert (reserve) and Herb Herbert (manager); and women: Poppy Macintyre, Alex Edwards, Rochele Potter and Craig Edwards (manager).

The 2017 inter-pacific event will be hosted by Guam.

- Northland Age

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