Bay of Islands Sailing Week, The Northern Advocate, NZ

February 03rd, 2018

Sharp sitting second in Bay of Islands regatta - The Northern Advocate

Kerikeri Paralympian Chris Sharp has put himself in position to complete a podium finish at the CRC Bay of Islands Sailing Week regatta.

A lack of wind delayed the start of racing on day two but once they got onto the water Sharp continued his good form in the Weta class.

The Weta class is a division Sharp loves, though there isn't anything he wouldn't try to sail.

"I'm really passionate about this class of boat. I'll sail anything, I'll sail a bathtub, I don't care what it is," he said, speaking to Bay of Islands Sailing Week.

"But this makes my eyes twinkle, and I like that feeling. So I love pushing the boat, I love promoting it as much as I can."

"People need to realise there is a boat that is possible to sail from young to old and still be competitive. It's not like a Moth which you just can't do when you get older, or a kite board that involves good mobility.

"This boat can be raced hard by people that are just switched on, and for that I think what an incredible class – there aren't many classes you can say that for."

After clinching three straight second placings in the trio of races on day one, Sharp was hoping to push ahead and close the gap between himself and first-placed Ian Sutherland.

Sutherland won all three of the opening day's races and that trend continued through races four and five as he set the pace.

Sharp made sure he maintained second placing going into the last day of racing, finishing right behind Sutherland twice.

The boat Sharp sails, No Name, isn't a new ride by any stretch of the imagination and the model is rarely seen on the race track.

"It's an antique – it's one of the prototypes when they first designed the class and made them. Roger [Kitchen] made this one for his son as a trial, and that's the one I sail," he said.

"I love the fact that it's old. I love the fact that it was built when they started. It is No 6 – they made six of them in Roger's garage, and this is one of the ones that came out of there. There are still a couple of them around, but not on the race track."

The Bay of Islands regatta is acting as a warm-up for the Weta class national competition in Whitianga.

Sharp said the programme is looking a bit fuller than recent years.

"So this year we've got Bay Week and then we've got Whitianga as our nationals. Next year our aim is to have four regattas spread around the country with one on a lake.

"We've got a number of members down in the South Island, so we need to go to them instead of asking them to come to us all the time."

Female uptake highlights successful Bay of Islands regatta - The Northern Advocate

Increased female participation was a major talking point following the conclusion of the CRC Bay of Islands Sailing Week regatta.

This year the regatta again proved its broad and enduring appeal, with the biggest entry numbers in nearly a decade - 104 boats across 13 divisions.

There was a noticeable change in the makeup of the participants too. One of the most obvious changes was an increase in female participation, both on the water and on shore.

"I think there's more female sailors this year," said regatta chairwoman Manuela Gmuer-Hornell.

"I haven't been on the water personally, but just seeing the photos and people around the marquee, it seems there are more girls taking part, and taking more responsibilities on board too, rather than just being ballast."

Manuela is the first chairwoman in the regatta's 16-year history, and is pleased the event is becoming more representative, in terms of its participants and organising committee.

One woman taking part was Sharon Ferris-Choat, the Kerikeri sailor whose multiple achievements in sailing include world records and participation in the Olympic Games and Volvo Ocean Race.

Ferris-Choat was one of three female crew on TP52 Kia Kaha. She too believes women are playing a bigger part in yacht racing, and would love to see more at the professional level in sailing.

"There's been a huge influx of women participating and doing some of the key roles," she said.

"It would be really neat to see more women taking on the challenge of buying boats and setting up race teams themselves.

"But I mean crikey, it was considered extreme bad luck a hundred years ago to have a woman on a boat, so we've got to consider that we're doing leaps and bounds!"

Her advice to anyone trying to get into sailing was to "just go and connect".

"It's who you know. And those who-you-knows will teach you what you need to know."

In the Weta fleet, Ted Houry, aged 11, was so concerned about crew weight on day three - the lightest day of the regatta - that he jettisoned his dad from the boat, and went on to sail to victory on his own.

Paralympian Chris Sharp, who placed second overall in the Weta racing against able-bodied opponents, was pleased to see younger sailors getting in and giving it a go.

"Ted was in the two-handed division but thought he'd have a crack at the single, and went out there and nailed us! He showed that if it's light, he's dynamite," he said.

Sharp was a consistent performer in the Weta class on his boat No Name, finishing second in eight of the nine races. He took out the other one but Ian Sutherland on Suds took out the division in commanding style.

Race results available here

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