Race faces ‘survival sailing’
About 40 boats are expected to race on Lake Wanaka this weekend, in the local yacht club’s annual regatta. Wanaka Yacht Club publicity officer Roger North said the event, sponsored by Mitre 10, was the largest on the club’s calendar and attracted sailors from Christchurch south, and occasionally the North Island. Buoys would be used to indicate the course, but the direction the boats would take could not be announced until just before each race, as it depended on the wind. Eight races were planned across Friday night and Saturday, and on Sunday endurance races would be held, around Mou Tapu Island for the larger boats and Ruby Island for smaller vessels. In a rhumb line - the straightest route a vessel could take - the endurance races were 25 kilometres and 6km but they were likely to be much longer in reality, North said. The Wanaka Lakes Coastguard would be present throughout the regatta, particularly during the Mou Tapu Island race, which could become ‘‘survival sailing’’ depending on the conditions. In the other races, the yachts and dinghies would be separated into four divisions of similar boats, with a handicap system levelling the playing field. Another division would provide an opportunity for the skippers of Etchells to race. These nine-metre one-design lightweight racing vessels had become so popular in Wanaka that the event now doubled as the national freshwater championships. Defending champion Jeff Mercer, of Wanaka, skipper of Grenade, was expected to be up against about eight other Etchells. A tough competition was anticipated. Races between other popular classes, Flying Fifteens and Noelex 22s, were also expected to be hotly contested and the junior dinghy sailing was always a highlight, North said.
Ready to race: Etchell yachts practice on Lake Wanaka ahead of this weekend’s annual regatta.