Day 1 of the 2023 Toyota Optimist National Championship had a great feeling about it.
Over 200 young Optimist sailors bustling about the grounds of Wakatere Boating Club ready for four days of fierce competition. With nationals being the only ranking regatta for NZIODA travelling teams this year, the nerves were high and the air thick with anticipation. Teams have travelled from near and far to take part in this year's proceedings with sailors representing Australia, New Caledonia, Tahiti and Noumea out on the course. The regatta was officially opened by a moving welcome and Waitata from the Navy Marae (Te Taua Moana), where the Wakatere sailors welcomed the visitors into their club and thus began the event.
D Flag went down at approximately 1000 hours. High tide mixed with a rolling easterly swell made launching a test for the parents and volunteers. Shorts hiked up they pushed every boat through the surf and out towards the race courses.
Light variable breeze and the tide ripping out made for a tricky start to race one, which was abandoned on the first beat to shorten the course. After a minor course reset delay, a nice 6 - 10 knot south easterly blew down both courses making for the perfect afternoon of racing.
Three fleets were split across two courses. The Green Fleet course was full of action with some sailors competing in their first-ever regatta and others ready to make the move to Open Fleet. Zofia Wells from Glendowie Boating Club is leading after three races winning the final race of the day. Followed very closely by Kester Holmes from Worser Bay and Tyler Warren also from Glendowie.
As the afternoon continued the wind began to build, with wind’s averaging 12 knots and getting up to 17 in the puffs. Over on the Open Fleet course the atmosphere was intense, as every race counts for those looking to head to the World Championships and other overseas regattas. The top ten are all extremely close after four races with only nine points separating 1st and 10th. Nelson Meacham, a Wakatere sailor is sitting in 1st place after winning the final two races of today Nathan Soper (MBSC,QCYC,CBYC) and Charlie Bridger (CBYC, WBC) follow him closely both on 6 points after each winning a race earlier in the day. It’s early days for Open Fleet and no one can afford to make mistakes up the front.
White Fleet is sharing the course with Open Fleet this weekend. White Fleet is a step up from Green Fleet racing and is the final step before taking the plunge into Open Fleet at large regattas. Sixteen sailors battled it out over four races today. Sailors from the Tahiti team dominated all day with Louison Cardin taking the bullet every race and Mehiti Bax de Keating following closely in 2nd. The middle of the fleet is tight with only eight points separating 3rd and 8th. So it is still very much anyone's game.
The standard of racing out on the course today was unbelievably good and it was awesome to see so many countries represented at the New Zealand Nationals after the last few years of Covid holding them back. The forecast for tomorrow is for the breeze to swing to the southwest around 10 - 14 knots. Perfect for some nail-biting battles and fun on the water.
Report & images Tasman Rowntree I 2023 Toyota Optimist National Champs @WakatereBC