There is still over two months until the 2020 Theland NZ Open National Keelboat Championships, but it is already looking to be the best chapter in the event's history with a raft of big names already populating the 11-strong entry list.
There is an exciting mix of up-and-coming and experienced sailors and weekend warriors along with a good number of female sailors set to be involved.
Highlighting the entry list is a sponsored professional team, Team Theland, being led by Olympic Laser bronze medallist Sam Meech.
The team also includes a number of NZL Sailing Team members, namely Olympic 49erFX silver medallist Alex Maloney and Finn sailors Josh Junior and Andy Maloney, who are also part of Emirates Team New Zealand, as well as a Theland team member on board.
The final member of this team is RNZYS sailing director Laurie Jury, who says that having a number of professionals on the entry list can only be a good thing for the event and the other competitors taking part.
“It’s awesome to have such a talented and high-profile team sign up for this regatta," Jury said. "They have a lot of experience and skill so they are certainly going to be tough to beat, but I’m sure all of the other competitors will be keeping an eye on them and will be doing their best to show they have what it takes to beat them, which is going to make this event really exciting.”
Defending champion Nick Egnot-Johnson and his Knots Racing team, ranked second in the world match racing rankings, are returning and will be looking to go back-to-back after a dominant victory in 2019.
Egnot-Johnson and his team are itching to get back into competition after Covid-19 put a stop to their 2020 international plans, and says the team are more than motivated to etch their name into the trophy again.
“We are pumped to get back into some competitive sailing and cannot wait for this one," he said. "We had a great time last year and sailed well so hopefully we can replicate that again.
"It looks like the competition is going to be even tougher this year so it’s not going to be an easy run, but we can’t wait to get into it and also drink plenty of Theland Milk again.”
This event follows a fleet racing format, with all racing completed in MRX keelboats. It's a format that Egnot-Johnson says is one of his favorites.
“The fleet racing is so much fun. The starts can be hectic with everyone trying to get the best spot on the line, and anything can happen during the race. The other great thing about is that any sailors can get involved because it’s not as technical as match racing.”
Two all-female teams have already entered, including the 2019 Barfoot & Thompson Women’s Keelboat National Championships winner Sally Garrett as well as RNZYS performance programme skipper Megan Thomson and her 2.0 Women’s Racing Team.
Leonard Takahashi, who has been busy in the last two years sailing for the Japanese SailGP team alongside his Japanese 49er Olympic campaign, has also thrown his hat into the ring.
Other entries to date include: Jordan Stevenson (RNZYS PP / Vento Racing Team), Anarchy owner and skipper AJ Reid, RNZYS PP graduate Peron Pearse, Howard Spencer, Niall Malone (RNZYS PP / Blackfern Racing) and Geoff Gorrie, who is bringing a team all the way up from the Bluff Yacht Club.
Theland, the brand of Milk New Zealand who operate as one of the largest dairy exporters nationally, are back on board to sponsor the event for the second year in a row.
“The company are thrilled to be involved as the main sponsors for this event noting producing world-class dairy products and world-class sailors are two iconic Kiwi pursuits,” Theland e-commerce manager Aimee Cai said.
See here for more information, including the entry form.
- Pic: Nick Egnot-Johnson and Knots Racing took out last year's title. Photo: Andrew Delves / RNZYS.