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Peter “Rocky” Lester takes out inaugural Northland OK Dinghy Champs

There was much excitement in the air as OK Sailors convened at the Whangaruru Sailing Club in Oakura Bay for the inaugural Northland OK Dinghy Championships. Brainchild of Russell Wood, owner of a holiday section and bach in the area, as a welcome mini break for the OK fleet in the winterless north, plus enjoy more of the legendary OK dinghy fleet camaraderie. 

4 Races scheduled on Saturday with a 6-8 knot NW’er duly arriving after a short delay and it was on the water.  Race 1 start gun went and the fleet were off with Russell obliging by leading the fleet around the first triangle to show the way only to be passed by David “The Marksman” Hoogenboom wriggling thru up the second beat to lead the fleet home ahead of fast charging Peter “Rocky” Lester.The NW’er settled for race 2. Wood made no mistake this time taking the gun from Rocky Lester with another 2nd followed by David van der Wende. After two 3rd places and delighted with the decision to borrow Bushy’s boat David went on to show a clean pair of heals in Race 3 being heard to shout “go the left” and “I’ve gotta get one of these fasts boats for myself” only to remember he’s got one on the way when he takes possession of 530 later this year. Look out OK Dinghy fleet I have the right tools now to shake up the pecking order.

The Marksman hearing the call “go the left” took his advice with the perfect pin end start arriving in front at the top mark in race 4 with Eric “Wolf” Rone and Rocky Lester following close behind. Down the first reach the building breeze compressed the fleet with Rocky being run down. The Marksman and Wolf just managed to stay clear to the bottom mark followed by smiling Phil “Campervan” Coveny and Sefton “Paint Job” Powrie. The dying late afternoon breeze made it interesting with Wolf sniffing more breeze and leading The Marksman around the final top mark. 3 boats going for broke banging hard right came out smiling to turn next. In Waiuku parlance that’s called “Looking for the Mermaid”. Only ever found in the far corners of the beat but when found turns Zero’s into Hero’s.  Race finished with the Wolf first followed by The Marksman then Rocky with his worst result of the day and claiming the overnight lead. I think he now knows the Mermaid by her first name.

Day 1 done and on to the Barbeque being held at “Chateau Wood”, the cozy bach built by the Wood clan for holiday enjoyment for the whole family and hangers on. There was no shortage of meat supplied by the hungry guests supplemented by salads and chips from the local Chip Shop to round out a very pleasant meal. Tired bodies slowly drifted away during the evening leaving the stayer’s to finish 2 bottles of rum with the guaranteed hangover preventing mixer of ginger ale. The Colt swears by it we were told. Even the stayer’s resolve waned early, driven indoors by the cold mid-winter evening and most were back in their cosy dig’s by 10.Sunday dawned fine and clear, with more breeze promising to get the racing away on time at 10 for 3 more races to complete the full 7 race series. Rocky Lester had departed early on Saturday night and came out firing in race 5 with a wire-to-wire victory. Dave van der Wende after early form in the race was seen limping back to the beach muttering about poor boat maintenance after gear breakage to the borrowed flyer. He was not seen on the water again that day.

With a good 10-12 knots gusting 15 at times the racing was great for stretching the hiking legs and with plenty of shifts it kept things interesting. Conditions like these were to Russell’s liking taking his 2nd gun of the weekend from Mr Consistent Rocky Lester with Wolf always in the hunt.The final race saw a significant left shift just on the start making for a very difficult startline with the strong tide only adding to the misery. Rocky wanted the pin so bad he took the buoy with him dragging it away and gifting an easier start to all that followed behind. After untangling and restarting he hit hard left coming out in the top 3 at the windward mark to complete his magic tricks for the day. The dogfight for the first 3 places continued for the remainder of the race with Wolf securing the gun on the line followed again by Rocky with Russell completing the trifecta.

Racing done it was an enjoyable sail back to the beach for a leisurely packup, lunch and prizegiving. Peter “Rocky” Lester secured the win with ease. Never worse than 3rd and with a quiver of 2nd places. For his efforts he was awarded the recently acquired Northland OK Dinghy Trophy, an impressive Maori (“esque”) carved wooden obelisk with the fresh gouge marks from the recently removed original plaque still plainly visible. As suggested by the winner, who probably has more silverware collected from the highlights of a stellar yachting career filling all available trophy spaces at home, it was decided to keep the trophy at the Whangaruru Sailing Club clubhouse (“Lean to”) to wait for what will definitely be the 2016 Northland OK Dinghy Championships. 

Thanks go to the locals Travis and Rob and their better halves who managed the event plus a big thank you to Russell and the Wood clan who were the driving force to get the event off the ground. The water of Whangaruru harbour is a magical place to sail with easy launching from the Oakura beach. For anyone that didn’t front you missed a great weekends racing. Put it on your yachting regatta calendar for next year.
by Dave Hoogenboom