Friday, 18 December 2009

Takapuna Beach welcomes future world sailing champions

Image copyright Jonathan Masters.

by Zoe Hawkins

On Saturday 2 January, nearly 80 young sailors from 11 countries will take over Takapuna Beach with multi-coloured sailing dinghies and seek to prove on the racecourse that they have what it takes to be the best in the world.

The sailors are competing in the week-long Splash World Sailing Championships – a prestigious international event for single handed (solo) dinghy youth sailors.

Amongst them will be reigning World Champion Declan Burn, and reigning Girls Champion, Nienke Reina Jorna of the Netherlands.
2008 winner and NZL sailor Ben Lutze is another national favourite to watch, as are 2007 World Optimist Champion, Auckland sailor Chris Steele, and European Opti Champ Etienne Le Pen of New Caledonia, and 2008 World Girls Champ and 2009 Runner-Up, Philipine van Aanholt for The Dutch Antilles.

The Splash Dinghy is a fast, modern single handed dinghy designed for sailors under the age of 19. Favoured for its ability to build confidence in mostly teenage sailors, the boat is a step up from the Optimist, and a precursor and training vessel for the Laser class raced by both men and women at the Olympic Games.

Current World Champ Declan Burns of Picton, who has just completed high school, says he got into the Splash class after his father bought him a boat, about three years ago. “It’s a bit faster than a Starling and a lot of fun,” he says. Competing in New Zealand makes the regatta a lot easier to attend, and while he hasn’t spent a lot of time training in the waters off Takapuna, it is the location of many big sailing events, and that’s an advantage.

In 2009 New Zealand won the Nations Cup at the Splash World Champs held in Europe, winning the team the right to host the Champs locally this year. Takapuna Boating Club, led by event director Grant Cunningham, are the event organisers.

“It’s marvellous to see such high calibre of young sailors back on our shores,” says Grant Cunningham. “We owe great thanks to North Shore City Council, SPARC, The Lion Foundation, Victoria Cruising Club, Yachting New Zealand and many other generous suppliers for enabling this event to happen.”

“We also want to thank the sailors for making the trip from as far away as Europe. It is a big undertaking for young people and we aim to give them a great competition.”

Participating countries include New Zealand, Netherlands, Belgium, Netherlands Antilles, Germany, France, Peoples Republic of China, The Czech Republic, American Samoa, Samoa and Switzerland.

The event will commence with an Opening Ceremony on the evening of Saturday 2 January, followed by registration and measurement, and a practice race over the weekend.

Racing proper starts at 11am on Monday 4 January, and conditions permitting, 13 races will be held, finishing on Friday 8 January, and followed by a prizegiving on the Saturday.

The best spot for viewing is the beachfront reserve around Takapuna Boating Club on Takapuna Beach, from approximately 11am each morning, or from the water for those lucky enough to have access to a boat.

Prizes will be awarded to the winner of the Open Splash Championship, the best female winner, and the country with the lowest total points from amongst their three best sailors.

Takapuna Boating Club

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