George Lee Rush will head to the Optimist world championships full of confidence after winning the Optimist national championships in Auckland over Easter.
The 14-year-old showed great composure on the final day of racing off Murrays Bay Sailing Club by winning all four races to leapfrog Australia's Daniel Links. He started the day seven points behind Links but finished with a comfortable 17-point margin over his Australian rival with Lucas Day another nine points behind in third.
Lee Rush will now head the five-strong New Zealand team to compete at July's world championships in Antigua. He will be joined in the team by Day, Harrison Loretz, Hugo McMullan and Amelia Angus, who was the top girl at the nationals in seventh. Lee Rush, McMullan and Angus competed at last year's world championships in Cyprus.
A host of travelling teams were put together after the national championships with others selected to compete at the European, North American and Asian championships as well as teams for a Japan friendship regatta, a development team to head to Noumea and a girl's development squad to compete in New Caledonia.
Lee Rush will also head to next week's Junior Gold Cup in Bermuda, which will feature the top Optimist sailor from a number of countries. He's dominated the Optimist ranking regattas over the past 12 months, also winning the North Island championships and Interislander regatta.
The Wakatere Boating Club enjoyed a successful regatta, with Tom Rebbeck taking out the silver fleet, Josh Hilder on top in the bronze fleet and Nelson Meecham winning the green fleet regatta.
Lee Rush was delighted to be crowned national champion, especially beating a top performer like Links, and it came on the back of being the top-placed Kiwi last year.
“If I won the races, then I knew Daniel couldn’t finish in front of me so I just played that game which paid off,” Lee Rush said.
“Mentally, I just had to stay in it. I just kept at it and I thought that even though it’s the last race, I was going to keep things simple and I knew that if I won the race then Daniel couldn’t beat me so I just worked hard. I didn’t get too nervous or anything and I treated it exactly like any other race day and had to maintain a good head space and that was really all it was.”
The 2020 Optimist National Championships will be hosted next Easter by the Worser Bay Boating Club in Wellington.
Results from the 2019 Toyota Optimist National Championships sailed at the Murrays Bay Sailing Club:
Open (47 boats)
1st: George Lee Rush (Wakatere Boating Club) 2 3 4 1 2 (6) 2 1 1 1 1 - 18 points
2nd: Daniel Links (AUS) 1 1 1 2 1 1 6 2 (19) 3 17 - 35 pts
3rd: Lucas Day (Murrays Bay Sailing Club) 3 2 (13) 1 1 12 8 3 3 6 5 - 44 pts
4th Harrison Loretz (WBC) 5 7 2 4 3 9 (26) 15 2 2 2 - 51 pts
5th Hugo McMullan (Kohimarama Yacht Club) 3 5 3 3 12 10 3 4 (44) 20 4 - 67 pts
7th: Amelia Angus (KYC) 12 7 10 2 1 4 (19( 9 4 16 13 - 78 pts
Silver (47 boats)
1st: Tom Rebbeck (WBC) 110.7 pts
2nd: George Pilkington (WBC) 110.7 pts
3rd: Scarlett Zerbe (AUS) 121 pts
Bronze (47 boats)
1st: Josh Hilder (WBC) 140 pts
2nd: Caterina Meyer (AUS) 164 pts
3rd: Ora Mead (Worser Bay Boating Club) 172 pts
1st: Nelson Meecham (WBC) 35 pts
2nd: Tessa Clinton (WBC) 44 pts
3rd: Toby Dunn (MBSC) 45 pts
Photo and additional reporting Live Sail Die.