by Tom Powrie
It has been over a year since BlackMatch sailed a regatta in New Zealand, so when the Omega Auckland Match Racing Regatta was announced late last year we jumped at the chance to sail in our home waters. The regatta was pitched as a competition between some of the big names in match racing such as Dean Barker, Ben Ainslie, Chris Dickson and Bertrand Pace; versus some up and coming teams such as ourselves and Australia’s Torvar Mirsky.
In our first day of racing today we completed a mammoth eight races, closing the day with a respectable scorecard of five wins and three losses, including an important victory over Emirates Team New Zealand. There is a very big media presence surrounding this event, a live broadcast is available on 103 FM with regular updates on www.rnzys.org.nz. Due to so many big names competing here there is also a segment each night on both TV1 and TV3 sports news.
The regatta has coincided with spring tides here in Auckland, giving the usual current off the Westhaven breakwater a little bit more speed, and combined with a gusty southerly today the racing was very difficult. In our race against Dean Barker (Emirates Team New Zealand) we managed to win the start, shutting Barker out at the start boat, before both tacking onto port for the long beat into the tide.
At the top mark ETNZ rounded right on our stern and after both boats ‘set gybed’ (hoisting the spinnaker and gybing immediately) they managed to roll us and gain a slim advantage. However approaching the bottom mark we gained an overlap on the inside and after a very close incident where we double gybed to obtain luffing rights, ETNZ was handed a penalty. By the time both boats had dropped their spinnakers we had both sailed past the bottom mark on the wrong side and had to tack to head back towards the mark.
On a downwind leg to complete a penalty it is required only to tack and return to a downwind course, which Barker executed very nicely completing his penalty only very shortly after receiving it and only losing a minimal amount in the process. However we still rounded the bottom mark ahead and held this narrow lead to the finish line to take the win.
Two round robins are scheduled before semis and finals, so it is still very early days in this regatta, and with the high level of competition it’s going to be extremely close for the semi final spots. Nevertheless if we keep sailing well we are confident we will still be racing on Saturday, the final day.
As always we would like to thank our sponsors FedEx, the Royal New Yacht Squadron for running the regatta and Emirates Team New Zealand for their coaching support this regatta.
Omega Auckland Match Racing