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P Class

Biggest fleet in decades expected at P Class nationals

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Covid-19 been both a blessing and a curse for the P Class as the traditional Kiwi class gears up for next month's Tanner and Tauranga Cups.

On the one hand, it's seen a jump in interest and the biggest fleet in a couple of decades will descend on the Murrays Bay Sailing Club on January 4-9 for the national championships.

As many as 60 boats are expected to line up in the Tauranga Cup and, significantly, 20 of them are likely to be females who will battle it out for the Naomi James Trophy for top female.

Countering the jump in interest, however, is the difficulties event organisers have encountered trying to secure sponsorship. This will have been a familiar refrain in boat parks around the country (as well as in most other sports) but Murrays Bay have lined up Cassidy Construction, Osbournes and Graeme Robbins Sails as major sponsors for January's racing.

The resurgence in the P Class, particularly in Auckland, has been reflected in the big fleets turning up for the provincial trials. 

As many as 30 boats contested the North Harbour trials at Murrays Bay last weekend and 23 turned out at the Auckland trials at the Kohimarama Yacht Club. Various other trials have been held around the country recently, including in Christchurch (10 boats) and Tauranga.

The Tanner Cup is an interprovincial competition, with only those who earn selection to represent their province able to compete, and the Tauranga Cup is open to any P Class sailor.

"The P Class is a difficult boat to handle but the level of sailing we witnessed in the trials was really high," Tanner and Tauranga Cup event organiser Scott Leith said. "There were some really good battles on the water and it's clear that quite a few sailors have been working really hard in the boat.

"Covid-19 has helped [in the resurgence of the class]. The inability to travel overseas, whether to an international regatta or even on a holiday, has meant a few have jumped in a P when they might have focused more on the Opti. A lot of the kids are the right age and size and we've seen more new boats built than we have for quite a while.

"The fact the Auckland sailors were cooped up for three months meant they were also pretty keen to get back out on the water when allowed."

The P Class is unique to New Zealand and will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2023. More than 100 boats typically contested the Tauranga Cup in the 1980s and 1990s but this dropped away in the 2000s when the Optimist became the predominant junior classes boat.

Many of this country's top sailors have their names on the P Class honours board, including David Barnes, Chris Dickson, Leslie Egnot, Dean Barker, Jo Aleh and new Laser world champion Tom Saunders.

Auckland's move on December 30 to the Orange setting under the Covid Protection Framework will come at a good time for event organisers, who will be able to run the regatta with fewer restrictions. 

You can find out more about it here.

Photo: Adam Mustill / Live Sail Die.