An initiative for newcomers to the ILCA6 National Championships has seen fleet numbers soar with a strong showing of female and youth sailors competing in the Hauraki Gulf this week.
Racing is scheduled to start today from Murrays Bay Sailing Club with over half the record ILCA 6 fleet making their debut at this regatta.
Yachting New Zealand Women’s Sailing Manager Jenny Armstrong says it's the biggest ILCA6 fleet since the World Championships were held in New Zealand in 2009, with 44 of the 81 sailors across two fleets making the most of the free entry offered by organisers for first timers to the nationals.
“It’s great to have such a solid turnout for this class, and extra promising to see so many females and youth in the mix. For many, the free entry to this event has been the gentle push needed to get extra numbers signing up. Competing in a fleet of this size is a hugely valuable experience for all of these sailors,” says Armstrong.
The buzzing atmosphere at the club on Auckland’s North Shore is testament to a true love for the class which has become synonymous with single-handed dinghy sailing worldwide.
“There’s a real camaraderie in this class, and with sailors of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. Some new to national competitions, and other veterans of the class back to have some fun. It’s a real mix, and there’s an awesome attitude amongst the competitors to help each other through loaning gear, maintaining equipment, and generally just making sure everyone can be out there,” she continues.
The 61-strong ILCA fleet includes 44 youth sailors, and of these 18 are women.
The winner of this fleet, along with first place from the ILCA7 fleet being sailed at the same time, will be selected to sail at the World Championships in the Hague later this year.
A special feature of the ILCA6 event is also the 23-strong masters division with five-female sailors amidst the action.
Sailors have come from as far as Bluff in the South Island to Kaikohe in the North, as well as a number of internationals who have ventured to New Zealand to compete.
Top NZ female sailors participating include Olivia Christie and Greta Pilkington, and there’s also a Fijian Olympic Representative Sophia Morgan, as well as top Youth sailors Ethan Fong, Louis Poletti, George Pilkington, Zach Stibbe and Maddie Rist.
Across in the ILCA 7’s some notable names include Luke Deegan, Luke Cashmore, Caleb Armit, Matthew Rist, and Dylan Foresyth. These sailors will be competing in the same fleet as the ILCA 7 Opens with notable masters entries including America’s Cup skipper Dean Barker, Worle Masters champion Scott Leith, and defending champion Andrew Dellabarca.
Racing is scheduled to start today and will conclude on 22 January.
Ten races are scheduled over the next four days, which will be preceded by training camps.
For more information and results please see the event page.