Yachting: Murrays Bay to host Sail Auckland Regatta

Jason Saunders and Gemma Jones of New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images
Jason Saunders and Gemma Jones of New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images

One week from today the new look Murrays Bay Sailing Club will come alive with the opening day of racing at 2016 Oceanbridge Sail Auckland Regatta.

The North Shore club, which officially opened its new club house in September last year, is playing host to New Zealand's premier Olympic and Invited classes regatta. Racing runs over four days from February 25-28.

The entry list features some of the NZL Sailing Team's rock stars such as Gemma Jones, who represents the hosting Murrays Bay Sailing Club, and her Nacra 17 multihull sailing partner Jason Saunders from the Tauranga Yacht & Powerboat Club fresh from World Champs competition in Clearwater, Florida. They will sail against Aon Fast Track Squad pair Olivia Mackay (Napier Sailing Club) and Micah Wilkinson (Ngaroto Sailing Club) who were the top under-23 crew in Clearwater.

At January's Sailing World Cup Miami there were four Kiwi sailors in the Laser medal race making it difficult for live commentators to discern which New Zealander they were watching in a race where no other nation had more than one sailor.

Two of those top NZL Sailing Team's Laser campaigners - Andy Maloney and Sam Meech - are set to go head to head at 2016 Oceanbridge Sail Auckland, with plenty more New Zealand Laser sailors taking this opportunity to compete against their elite compatriots.

The Laser fleet at Oceanbridge Sail Auckland regularly attracts international sailors and this year is no exception with entrants from Korea, China, Australia, Finland, Singapore and the Cook Islands in town and about to get a taste of the kiwi competition and the Hauraki Gulf race track.

With New Zealand skiff sailing riding a wave of success right now it's no surprise that there is strength in the 49er and 49erFX fleets that promises tough fought, fast paced racing at Oceanbridge Sail Auckland next week.

While Peter Burling and Blair Tuke fulfil commitments with Emirates Team New Zealand, their absence leaves the door open for some new faces to top the podium this year and members of the Aon Fast Track Squad Logan Dunning Beck and Jack Simpson, and Isaac McHardie and Trent Rippey must be considered top contenders. Don't discount Nick Egnot Johnson and Jack Rogers though.

Two top women's 49erFX crews are competing too. NZL Sailing Team's Alex Maloney (a Murray's Bay local) and Molly Meech took out 2016 Sailing World Cup Miami less than one month ago, and they placed eighth last week at the 49erFX World Championships. But with nothing to lose and everything to gain Murrays Bay's Erica Dawson and Ellie Copeland, members of Yachting New Zealand's Aon Fast Track Squad, will be throwing everything they've got onto the race track next week.

Featuring in the Laser Radial class, the Olympic single-handed women's event, are 2012 Olympians Sara Winther (Takapuna Boating Club/Royal Akarana Yacht Club) and Susannah Pyatt (Murrays Bay Sailing Club) going up against 2015 NZL Yachting Trust Youth representative Ali Nightingale (Charteris Bay Boating Club). George Gautrey, silver medallist at the recent Youth World Sailing Championships sailed in Malaysia at New Year will be the man to beat in the youth Laser Radial division.

One of the largest fleets to sail this year at 2016 Oceanbridge Sail Auckland is the OK Dinghy class in which big names with plenty of life experience to their name, like Olympic silver medallist Rod Davis and former OK World Champion Peter Lester will be on the start line. However they will face tough competition from defending Oceanbridge Sail Auckland Champion Luke O'Connell from Worser Bay Boating Club.

Competition also promises to be tough in the 29er skiff and 420 events, where the future stars of New Zealand sailing are in the making including the likes of Murrays Bay's Jackson Keon, also a silver medallist at the Youth Sailing World Championships in 29er sailing with Tom Fyfe.

Oceanbridge Sail Auckland is their opportunity to go up against their New Zealand rivals and make their mark on the national stage.

The 2.4mR, Sonar and Hansa Liberty and Flying 15 classes will be based at Fairway Bay, Gulf Harbour, Whangaparaoa with racing Friday to Sunday.

- NZ Herald

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