Mac sailors impress on national stage

Wānaka junior sailors (back from left) Thomas Jurczyluk, Oli Wyeth, Erica Hudson, Mabel North,...
Wānaka junior sailors (back from left) Thomas Jurczyluk, Oli Wyeth, Erica Hudson, Mabel North, Madison Smith; (front from left) Otis Murphy, Imogen Nesbit, Matthew Jurczyluk. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Wānaka Yacht Club’s junior sailors won a promotion from silver fleet to goldfleet at the recent New Zealand Secondary Schools Team Racing Nationals, putting them amongst the best age group sailors in the country.

The team of eight eventually placed seventh from 30 teams at the nationals at the beginning of May, in what has become a "landmark season" for Wānaka’s up and coming sailors, who represented Mount Aspiring College.

Club spokesman Quentin Smith said the team impressed with a dominant start in the silver fleet seeding rounds to ensure the promotion into the gold fleet.

"They stayed there for the rest of the week and competed with the best crews in the country."

Teams racing is a three boat on three boat format, resulting in fast, intense, action packed and strategic combat on the water. Races are often only six to eight minutes long, Mr Smith said.

About 300 sailors from 30 school teams competed over five days to complete 396 races in four fleets over four rounds, with Auckland Grammar winning the championship title this year.

It was the first time the Mac team had finished inside the Gold Fleet (top eight).

Wānaka also earned the distinction of being the top South Island team and the top team from outside Auckland, and was one of just two teams from inland freshwater clubs.

Further, it was "certainly the most isolated in terms of distance," Mr Smith said.

"This outstanding result comes at the end of a landmark season for Wānaka Yacht Club where many youth sailors extended beyond the comfort of Lake Wānaka and tested themselves against the best in New Zealand. 

"Wānaka [was] represented in five South Island Championships and five National Championships across a range of boat classes as well as lots of smaller regattas.

"Three took a step further at the New Zealand Youth Trials vying for selection to the Youth World Championships in Lake Garda, Italy and achieving top three results in their categories," Mr Smith said.

Youth sailing co-ordinator Roger North said he was most pleased about the culture that had evolved in the team — "one that focus on fun, inclusiveness, support, personal development and kicking a little butt along the way".

Yachting New Zealand spokeswoman Jenny Armstrong said it was "great to see"that Wānaka youth sailing programme getting sailors having fun and hooked on travelling to race further afield. "This year alone has seen sailors compete at national championships, compete in Sail GP programme, join the National AON Youth Sailing Squad, compete at NZ Youth Champs. 

"But the biggest achievement is the Mac team racing with a group of eight finishing seventh at nationals. I am already looking forward to seeing what this talented group get up to next season," she said.