Daryl Wislang is used to going for days without seeing anyone other than his crewmates so it was quite a different scene at the Sir Peter Blake Regatta at Torbay at the weekend as boats skirted across the water, kids buzzed around the beachfront and parents told tall stories.
The two-time Volvo Ocean Race winner was a special guest of the Torbay Sailing Club, presenting prizes along with Dongfeng teammate Stu Bannatyne. Wislang didn’t follow the traditional sailing pathway, starting in a Sunburst rather than an Optimist or P-Class, but what he saw at the weekend left him heartened.
“The sport of sailing in New Zealand is in a great place when you see events like this happening,” Wislang said. “There was something like 460 competitors this weekend and shows the depth of the sport in New Zealand and all the people coming through young and old. It’s great to see them all in the one place.”
Only one day of racing was possible at the Sir Peter Blake Regatta due to strong winds on Saturday. Conditions eased enough on Sunday, with a perfect 12-15 knot wind blowing across the Hauraki Gulf allowing as many as five races in some classes.
Olivia Christie (Worser Bay Boating Club) claimed the Sir Peter Blake Memorial Trophy, awarded to the outstanding sailor of the weekend. Christie won the Laser Radial fleet, finishing two points ahead of Luke Cashmore and Caleb Armit, who was a joint winner with Josh Hyde of the Sir Peter Blake Memorial Trophy last year.
Principal race officer Harold Bennett collected the other major prize of the weekend, being awarded the PJ Montgomery Trophy for services to sailing.
As many as 21 fleets competed across the three race courses, including Paper Tigers and the P-Class and Javelins and J14s. The Optimist open class was one of the most hotly contested, with only one point separating the top three – Amelia Angus (Kohimarama Yacht Club) finished ahead of George Pilkington and George Lee Rush (both Wakatere Boating Club).
For many, it was their first ever regatta and Wislang had some simple advice for youngsters starting out.
“The camaraderie and enjoyment level needs to be high on the list at this age,” he said. “Different kids have different levels of competitive streak. The main thing early on is enjoyment. The competitive side will come. If you want to take it further, it’s a pretty natural progression.”
Wislang’s next assignment is the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, starting on Boxing Day, with Comanche starting as one of the favourites after dominating local racing in the leadup to the iconic race.