By Barry Emms, Edited by Nick Murray
The 2016 NZO was hosted by the Auckland Blokart club and held at their Ardmore track. Wednesday got off to a surprise start when a very nice looking aeroplane belly landed on the end of the runway. Fortunately the pilot and aeroplane came out in good shape. The incident occurred right where we were to sail and the skill of the pilot prevented any damage to the sealed surface. Not so fortunate was a pile of our gear which our advance party was unloading. The airport was put into lockdown mode and those already on hand had to move into a building while those arriving on the outside were unable to enter. Meantime heavy rain was falling and all the gear was saturated.
Attached below is a photo of the Ardmore track. Entry to the complex is at the lower edge by the buildings which were event headquarters, increased in size with a couple of Marquees. The start line was a few metres to the right of where it is shown and there was room to sneak around the end when anyone was over at the start. The runway is on the right hand end where it indicates “extended track” and officials moved a cone down the runway depending on conditions.
Looking at the map, normal wind direction is from the left, possibly coming down the runway but more from about where the red “leave track” words are written. However not the case for this event as the wind came from the opposite direction, the North East. This cost the Auckland Club members some of their home advantage as well. Sounds great but what you are unable to see in the attached map is that above the top edge are various lines of trees plus a large tent like building and this prevented clear wind when tacking down the runway. On the plus side no wind was predicted for Thursday so any wind has got to be good. The same wind appeared over the next two days as well.Sunday, we arrived at the track to a strong wind from the opposite direction. It came with rain but after such a promising start we never actually managed to run any races.
Races were of six minute duration and depending where the runway marker was positioned that usually equated to three laps for most sailors. Responsibility for not being over on the start was entirely up to sailors. If you thought you were over it was better to loop around the end of the start line and come through again. Those who took the risk and sailed on ended up by thinking they had done well only to find they were a lap down and incurred a lot of points. Due to the wind direction sailors dialled up clockwise behind the start line and came through on a port tack, that is heading towards the grass islands. From there it was a matter of tacking down the runway, turning clockwise around the end mark. and gybing back up the runway. From there we zigzagged along the three cross tracks and on the third sailed up to the end of the sealed area, around a marker and back to the start/finish line.
That sounds simple, a bit of a doddle really, do it with your eyes shut!!. Not so, this track layout was dodgy and caused much pain. The line of trees upset the wind flow and one second sailors would be tacking along the runway the next, a black hole with nothing going on. Gybing back was not so bad but the black holes were still out to get you. The worst aspect was that not everyone suffered at the same time. Wind strength changes occurred on a regular basis, some sailed through a soft patch that trapped others only to be caught out further along the track or on the next lap. Those were the conditions that we sailed in for three days. Patches of rain as well. Some races were called off after the start, others hardly managed a start or sat on the line till the wind came up again. Tacking was not like the Wigram taxiway in an easterly. The runway was wide but tacking efficiently was difficult.
The races were run in the following order; Performance class – Light (13), Middle (16), Heavy (17), Super Heavy (11),Production class (8) in that order. Four entrants sailed in dual classes and as it turned out they were all in Performance Heavy, they were the top four Production sailors and finished in the same sequence in Performance Heavy. 5.5 M sails were about the only useful choice, Mike Gray unsuccessfully tried a 4 M in one race, that was enough to convince him to change back up. In previous events the Ardmore track had been hard on tyres. The sharp chip surface slicing into tyres, chip stuck in the tyre ribs working through and causing punctures. This time the surface was much better, smoother, not much loose chip and few punctures. Ray Kelly punctured due to a nail, just as the dial up started in one race and Dave Tillman also punctured during a races. Quite a few tyres went with a bang especially on the first race day.
Colin Cook suffered a broken rear axle when he tried to tack without much warning and was hit from behind. Paul Beckett also suffered a broken axle while turning and was fortunate to keep his Kart upright. The axle had probably weakened from an earlier bump. Dylan Mckinlay lost focus, missed the first cross track, thus sailing the wrong course. In one race Amanda Norris was over the line at the start and when she sailed around the mark to come over the line correctly, hello someone was standing in the gap, and she had to take to the grass, a slow way around. Alex Morris must have left his helmet strap undone and was disqualified when it came off while racing. Alex Stol was belted up and ready to roll onto the seal for race start when he realised he didn’t have his helmet on.
Russell Harray and Ray Kelly collided along the runway, both of them came to a stop, Russell lost a wheel, maybe an axle as well. At the start of racing Russell was on the slow side, unbelievable for him and I think he lost a rear wheel in his second race. Apparently he has a new chassis and the seat back had been fitted the wrong way around, slightly altering the pulley whip angle. In one race Theo Vondervoort had a huge lead and thinking the race was only five minutes long and due to finish at any second he starting circling just before the finish line, this to save an additional lap. As the rest of the fleet started to close the gap he finally realised that the races were six minutes long. To ensure his win he crossed the line and completed another lap.
The spectators learnt early on that just because one sailor had built up a huge lead on lap one it was important to resist crowing about it. Next time around it could easily be another sailor with a big lead. You could be sure that in these cases the previous leader had fallen into a wind hole down the runway, losing all forward momentum. Some of those behind had missed the hole and sailed past at speed. This took away the ability to predict winners and from the sailors point of view sailing consistently was vital. As the fleet only managed 13 or 14 races in total there was only one drop putting more pressure on to do well in every race. The results are attached below for your perusal, note the terms at the end of the results,Correct means that that competitor has received redress for an on track incident and the points have been inserted manually;
Performance – Light;
No doubt about Auckland member John Paverd, a worthy winner, with his race drop removed his worst finish was 4th place. Bay member Gabe Young tried hard but with a 6th place and a couple of 5th places, that just knocked him back to a well-deserved 2nd. Sarah Tootill sailed very well and was the most consistent finisher in this division with a 6th place drop. Unfortunately too few 1st or 2nd places increased her overall points and she was lucky to make the podium in 3rd place overall. In 4th place overall, Canterbury member Mitchell Denton. Finishing two points behind Sarah was a great effort. This was his first major event in a Performance Kart and his skill level stood out He managed three 1st placings, same number as Gabe and two more than Sarah. A great result for Mitchell, well done. In 5th place Canterbury member Amanda Norris. She sailed consistently over the three days, her worst race was a 7th place, that’s better than John and Gabe could achieve, Unfortunately she couldn’t finish in the top three in enough races and accrued too many points.
Performance – Middle;
Another brilliant Auckland win with Barry Cole accruing just 18 points and dropping a 3rd place, to me that tells it all. Regardless of black holes, rain and no wind Barry managed to finish 14 races in 3rd place or better. A top finish and well sailed. Bay member Dylan Mckinlay also sailed with skill to keep his points down in every race, coming in 2nd overall and dropping a 9th place. In 3rd place Auckland member David Heilbron, he just finished a couple of races too far down the field and even though he dropped a 15th place this was the best he could manage. 4th place went to Canterbury member Dee McCrea. While her worst drop was a 11th place she just accrued too many points to make the podium. She did sail well with a 1st place and some other good finishes though.
Performance – Heavy;
Well you have to congratulate Auckland member Mark Hursthouse on his ability. Sailing two classes over three days is no mean feat and the heavy weight division included some very experienced sailors. Dropping a 9th and winning six races gave Mark plenty of breathing space and a well-deserved win. Auckland member Russell Harray came in 2nd overall and just couldn’t manage enough of his usual 1st places, at this event he had to share them out with five other sailors and that shows the ability of others in this class. He still sailed very well and 2nd place was well deserved. In 3rd place Canterbury member Alex Morris. A very good result for Alex but he will be disappointed that his helmet decided to part company as this turned out to be an expensive mistake. With a reasonable finish in that race he would have dropped a smaller number of points from another race and there was a real possibility that he would have ended up with less points than Russell who ended up only two ahead. On the other hand that’s racing and Alex will have to wait for another day. In 4th place Canterbury member Michael Denton. A very consistent day for him and let it be noted that his worst finish and dropped race was an 8th place, better than all the other competitors in his class. He also sailed in two classes a big effort and a good result for Michael.
Performance – Super Heavy;
Another Division with a cluster of very good sailors capable of winning. In 1st place Auckland member Wayne Osborne. Mr consistent with just one slip resulting in a 11th place which he was able to drop. Other than that his worst finish was a 4th and at the end of the day that’s what will put you on the podium. A well-deserved finish for Wayne. In 2nd place Bay member Theo Vondervoort. Another consistent sailor Theo let a few races slip slightly and although he won five, one more than Wayne his worst finish was a 6th he just accrued too many points. In 3rd place, Canterbury member Terry Helm who sailed really well. However in this class you needed a bunch of low points to do the job and Terry was unable to win enough races and accrued too many points in others. I must mention John Marshall from the Hawkes Bay club. This is one of our smaller clubs with not much of a venue for club sailing. With those factors taken into consideration John sailed very well with good finishers to take out 4th place.
With only eight entries this class consisted of just one division with the potential to include a wide range of sailor weights. The heartening aspect of this class was that three Auckland members and one Bay member took the trouble to enter and provide Canterbury members some opposition and I really thank them for that. Four Production sailors entered a Performance class as well and in doing took on the additional load of managing two Karts and sailing in twice the number of races than the rest of us.
In 1st place Auckland member Mark Hursthouse, another brilliant effort from him. To enter two classes and win both is an outstanding achievement and to be applauded. He won seven of the 13 Production races and really only slipped up in two races. In 2nd place Canterbury member Michael Denton who sailed really well and dropped a 6th place, the same as Mark. However with the stiff competition Michael was only able to achieve two 1st places and that just wasn’t enough to keep his points low. A great effort all the same. In 3rd place Auckland member Ray Kelly. You can always rely on Ray to provide some resistance and he managed the same number of 1st places as Michael. A couple of poor finishes just increased Ray’s points too much. In 4th place Auckland member Paul Page sailed well and won the first two races. He finished one point behind Ray, a really good effort.
Overall this was another excellent event and on behalf of the Canterbury club I extend our thanks to club ABC for their organisation and hospitality. Good food to eat every day, an excellent Saturday night meal, three days racing and great prizes, I came home with a new rear rim and they are always handy. Now that the clubs are all using the same timing system it was interesting to note that the Auckland system appeared to trigger transponders a bit earlier than the Canterbury set up. Another interesting point, the timing team had been noting competitor lap times and there was a prize for the quickest lap achieved over the event. Amazing really, two sailors recorded the same time, one was Theo Vondervoort from Super Heavy division and the other, David Tillman from Production. That just indicates how fickle the wind was.