Windsurfing: Quick starters show way in slalom championships

Competitors in the New Zealand slalom windsurfing championships in the Otago Harbour on Saturday. Photo by Craig Baxter.Gareth Wood's explosive start made the difference and was the key to his sixth national windsurfing slalom title.

Wood (31), the assistant engineer at the University of Otago, convincingly won the men's open title on the Otago Harbour on Saturday.

He won 14 of his 18 races at the championships to finish with 10.50 points and was followed by Laurence Carey (Auckland), 21.25, and Dan Meehan (Dunedin), 22.25.

Carey (19), a member of the Auckland Team 10 club, won seven races and also won the youth title from Tom McGregor (Christchurch), 54.75 points, and Taylor Boyd (Christchurch), 70.

Wood stamped his mark when he won eight of his 10 races on the first day of racing, on Friday.

''If you are not out of the blocks quickly at the start it is hard to catch up,'' Wood said.

Slalom windsurfing is the high-speed arm of the sport and can be likened to slalom skiing, with obstacles rounded at speed. The course is over 2km to 3km and there are usually five or six markers to be rounded at speeds of 30-35 knots.

Wood reached speeds of 70kmh when he raced downwind on the Otago Harbour at the weekend.

''A race only lasts three to five minutes and if you are not out fast you can't catch up,'' he said.

Wood has been windsurfing since the age of 7 and has dominated the open men's events since 2007.

He started windsurfing in Wellington and he has lived in Dunedin since 2007. His wife, Victoria, and daughter, Ngaire (2), encouraged him from the shore.

Annie Crombie (Christchurch) won her fifth women's open title with a score of 10.50 points from Sue Bradley (Queenstown), 26.25, and Lucy Waters (Wanaka), 40.

Crombie (45), the owner of the House of Travel in Christchurch, has been windsurfing since 1990 and has competed overseas.

She won the French Polynesian title in Tahiti in 2010 and gained a lot of confidence when she came fourth in the women's section of the prestige Maui race in Hawaii last year.

''I improved my jibing at Maui. It made a big difference this weekend,'' Crombie said.

This ability showed on Friday when she won nine of her 10 races. She completed the championships with 15 wins from her 18 starts.

Crombie won her first national title in 2007 and also won in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

Auckland dentist Jim Rodgers (60) won the silver fleet title with seven wins and two seconds from his nine races. He scored 5.25 points and was followed by Aaron Kitto (Christchurch), 10, and Russell Lund (Dunedin), 13.5.

The women's youth title was won by Xanthe Bowater (Christchurch) with 133 points.