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29er start line

Record fleet at 29er national championships

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Mattias Coutts and Cailen Rochford emerged from a strong field of 40 boats at the 29er national championships in the Bay of Islands.

The Manly Sailing Club pair narrowly beat George Lee Rush and Josh Schon from the Wakatere Boating Club, with Brayden Hamilton (WBC) and Seb Menzies (Murrays Bay Sailing Club) third.

Both top teams ended up tied on 30 points each with Coutts and Rochford winning on countback and going into the final day any boat in the top 10 could have taken out the title.

The first female team was Alex Maloney and Molly Meech, second was the youngest female team of Lucy Leith and Lizzie Shapland (MBSC) and third went to Sophia Fyfe (MCC) and Ella Gladwell (WBC).

There was a good mixture of top youth sailors, juniors stepping up, a strong contingent of female and mixed combinations as well as a handful of well-known faces on the start line. Two teams from Nelson made the journey North, which was a great effort.

No racing was possible on the first day due to light winds and unsettled conditions but race management packed in five races on days two and three. 

With such a big fleet it was superb racing in mostly moderate wind conditions but it also meant very tricky starts given the number of boats and occasional wind lulls. There were plenty of overtaking lanes given the significant variations in pressure across the course in most races, making it impossible to defend a lead against all boats, so it was a case of making sure teams posted consistent scores to minimise the damage.

There has been an influx of sailors into the 29er class in recent times, and there was also several new combinations, mostly due to the cancellation of this year's Youth Sailing World Championships in Brazil, which provided several exciting sub-plots.

"You can't beat good quality racing in big fleets," Yachting New Zealand talent development manager Geoff Woolley said. "This was an opportunity to stay race sharp, and without a doubt, this is the biggest youth double-handed class event in this country in recent history and the biggest 29er regatta ever in New Zealand. This quality fleet fills the void of not being able to travel."

It's one of the reasons why Maloney and Meech were on the start line. The Olympic silver medallists, who won the 29er national title together in 2011, competed along with three-time 18-foot skiff world champion David McDiarmid, who teamed up with two-time Youth Worlds 29er medallist Kate Stewart.

On top of that, youth worlds silver medallist Seb Lardies competed with Pat Morgan, and former 29er world champions Crystal Sun and Olivia Hobbs also jumped back into the boat after spending the last couple of years in the 49erFX.

"It's awesome that a bunch of former 29er sailors and senior skiff sailors are looking at an event to do," said Woolley, who won the 29er national title with Mark Overington in both 2001 and 2002. "It's something we encourage."

"It's a fun class, and there are good numbers building, so it's some of the best racing you will get at the moment in New Zealand. This country has an excellent history in the 29er, and there is a lot of knowledge people can tap into with recent sailors and coaches."

Final results here