The Tauranga sailing fraternity got the perfect end to a marvellous two weeks when two of its rising stars churned out a remarkable one-two finish in the national Starling championships on Saturday.
Not even a last-race capsize could deny Tauranga's 13-year-old Peter Burling the title he'd all but sealed in the previous three days while Bruce Kennedy snatched second place on a countback.
With winds gusting up to 25 knots, organisers of the Nuplex-sponsored event called off the final day's racing after the first race after a change in tide caused havoc in the fleet.
Burling kept his cool after ditching into the water, climbing back into his boat and eventually finishing fifth, having gone into the race needing only a top-10 finish to cement his win.
"I had a decent start but the big boys nailed me up wind and I didn't go out quite as hard to start with because I didn't really want an on course side penalty," Burling said. "I was more comfortable in the lighter winds of the last few days but I would have had to have done pretty bad to have lost it today."
Training partner Kennedy also capitalised on local knowledge to finish a tightly contested second, edging out Alastair Thompson (Torbay) only on a placings count back. It reversed the result of the North Island championships, which Kennedy won with Burling second.
The best of the women at the end of the series was Kate Ellingham (Wakatere) in 16th place, followed by Jane Monk (Otago) in 17th and Nicole Haliburton (Kohimaramara) in 28th.
Event co-ordinator Gary Smith said the double success showed what a force Western Bay of Plenty sailing was becoming.
"There were always different people up there," Smith said.
"To have Peter and Bruce take out the top two places is a great bit of kudos for Tauranga. It definitely reflects the enormous effort the kids and parents are putting in to get on the national map."
Smith admitted local knowledge played a major part in the success but the Tauranga conditions were of international class.
"About 20 per cent of the kids absolutely hate sailing at Tauranga and the other 80 per cent think wow," Smith said.
With two different tides on the two courses, and the hills causing the wind to bend more, a different sort of skills set is needed to negotiate the tide and sandbanks successfully.
"The kids were going out and building sandcastles in the middle of the sandbars - they just weren't looking for it because they never get to sail this sort of course. When they leave New Zealand to sail in Europe and Australia the experience will stand them in good stead, as they will encounter the same sort of obstacles there."
Both Burling and Kennedy attribute their success largely to their familiarity with the area, both of them revelling in the light winds that troubled many of the competitors.
"There were so many boats out there capsizing," Kennedy said.
"It definitely makes for interesting sailing." Burling agreed. "It takes years to learn how to read a course and while sailing at Tauranga is hard, it does help develop our skills," he added.
The two will pair up at Easter when they vie for the New Zealand youth representative title in the 420 class. There they will be sailing in the more constant conditions of Auckland but will still be calling on all the tricks of the trade that Tauranga has taught them.
With 60 volunteers on the water since Boxing Day through until Saturday, the P-class and Starling events both ran smoothly.
To make the finals day even more special, was the presence of John Peet - for whom the title cup was named, and Des Townson -who designed the starling for sailors who had grown out of the P-class boat, at the request of Peet.
They saw their legacy at work as they watched 152 white sails set out on the first day of racing.