About as many boat classes as there were clubs featured at last weekend's Waikato Thames Championship regatta at the Mercury Bay Boating Club, which was run to help bring the clubs of the Waikato region together.
Optimists, O'Pen Skiffs, Microns, Starlings, Z420s, Farr 3.7s, Lasers, and Hobie Cats were sailed by skippers young and not so young from Hamilton, Cambridge, Ngaroto, Thames, Manly, Murrays Bay, Wakatere, Huntley, Rotorua and Mercury Bay.
The 65 sailors ranged in age from 8 to 73, with one local Hobie Cat even featuring a combined crew age of 145.
It had been some time since the annual Waikato Thames Championship for centreboard classes had been hosted by Mercury Bay in Whitianga, with only principal race officer Russell Chaney having had experience organising the event.
There were more than a few who were apprehensive when the first morning dawned cloudy and grey with wind gusts of 20 knots and a building 1.4m swell. It didn't deter the sailors, and it only added more drama to the stories told later that day at a special dinner.
"The breeze blew hard; wind-driven white caps mixed with swell but everyone involved, from our youngest juniors to our most senior sailors and volunteers, rose to the challenge," said Mercury Bay Boating Club spokesman Jonathan Kline. "Two years ago, putting our sailors on the water and running an event of this scale would have been unimaginable.
"But here we were, publishing NoRs, managing dozens of registrations, planning an elaborate dinner for nearly 100, setting courses, running safety boats, hiking out, spray in our faces, salt in our eyes."
All but the green fleet sailed four races on Saturday and two races on Sunday. For some, just finishing the race was the victory; for others, the rigorous conditions were what they craved.
The second day featured less wind and swell and everyone felt better equipped to cope after the previous day's action. Prizegiving quickly followed, when more than 25 prizes were handed out to those who finished on the podium.
Mercury Bay Boating Club commodore Simon Rawlinson said he couldn't be more proud of what the club pulled off last weekend. “We’ve organised a spectacular event,” he said. “It was a fantastic effort. For a small club, we’ve punched far above our weight.”
- Photo: Helen Hart