It's clear that plenty of New Zealand's Olympic class sailors are getting back in their boats with over 150 dinghy and multihull sailors taking to the water on the first day of the annual Sail Auckland regatta.
New Zealand's largest regatta for International Classes, Sail Auckland is also NZ's first major regatta in the new Olympic cycle, incorporating the 470 and Europe National Championships.
Racing started in a dying 6 knot breeze, with most classes getting in one race before the wind finally petered away to nothing, and Auckland Harbour turned into a millpond. Patience paid off and a seabreeze picked up later in the afternoon allowing some classes to sail more races. The Mistrals were not so lucky, and with only 1 race under their belts so far will be crossing their fingers for more breeze later in the regatta.
The Mistral fleet has a truly international look this year, bolstered by the Hong Kong boardsailing team, headed by Atlanta gold medallist Lai Shan Lee, together with other sailors from Japan, Tahiti and Brazil. New Zealand's Barbara Kendall will not be sailing against her long-time friend and rival Lee having taken time off her sailboard to team up with coach Grant Beck in a Hobie 16, sailing off Takapuna Beach. Beck & Kendall finished 4th in both today's races, leaving them 4th equal overall.
Placings in the Laser fleet have been well shaken up after today's two races, with expected favourites Alastair Gair, Andrew Murdoch and Matt Blakey all huddled mid-fleet after today's light and flukey conditions. There's even more at stake for the Laser class, with this regatta being the last of the two selection regattas for this year's Laser World Championship.
With 10 boats in the Europe fleet, including NZ's Olympic Europe representative, Sarah Macky and Czechoslovakian Olympian Lenka Smidova. The battle will start in earnest tomorrow, with Abby Mason joining the ranks again having got back into her boat again after an extended break from sailing last year.
NZL's 49er Olympic reps Daniel Slater & Nathan Handley will take time off from Team New Zealand commitments to get back in their 49er over the weekend to challenge Italy's Olympic 49er rep Francesco Bruni sailing with Lars Bomstrom, both currently in Auckland with the Prada syndicate.
For those pointing their bows towards Athens 2004, this regatta is one of the four 2001 Yachting New Zealand ranking regattas (Sail Melbourne, Sail Auckland, National Champs, YNZ OlympicSail). At the end of the four events, the overall winners of each class will earn themselves funding to this year's major European summer regattas.The regatta is also the first formal opportunity for Yachting New Zealand's three newly appointed high performance coaches, Bruce Kendall (boardsailing), John Clinton (double-handed), and Peter Fox (single-handed) to evaluate the new wave of Olympic class sailors.