Sally Garrett won her first women’s national keelboat title, meaning there was a new winner for the first time in five years.
Garrett held her nerve on the third and final day of racing as Melinda Henshaw and Karleen Dixon, who had shared the previous four titles between them, put the pressure on in stronger breezes off the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
In the end, Garrett’s second placing in the 13th race of the regatta saw her claim the title by three points over Henshaw, with Dixon a further one point back in third.
It also guaranteed Garrett and her team entry to the New Zealand open national keelboat championships at the Squadron at the end of the month.
Garrett first competed in the nationals 20 years ago and the crew then included Sarah Ell and Sara Winther, when Winther had just left school. They had a break for 11 years for children, Olympic sailing and offshore sailing, but made a comeback last year.
“We’ve sailed together for 20 years and this is our first win,” Garrett said at prizegiving. “I’ve won this event a few times as a crew member but I’ve never managed to get it together to win it as a skipper so it’s really exciting.
“We had Emma Stenhouse sailing with us and last year she had not raced on a keelboat. It was her and Alison Kent’s great work on the bow that meant Sara’s tactics could be put into place.
“It was a fantastic few days out there on the water and we can’t wait to come back and do it again next year.”
Garrett, who sails out of the Royal Akarana Yacht Club, came into the nationals on the back of competing in the Round New Zealand Two Handed Race. RAYC Club Captain Jenny Price was also a part of the winning women’s national keelboat team with Garrett.
She and her crew prospered on the first day in winds so light it sometimes resembled a drift off and some teams didn’t finish within the time limit. Rain and light winds meant only three races were possible on Saturday but a solid 15-20 knot breeze made an appearance on the final day.
Garrett’s consistency paid off, with her drop a sixth, when many of her rivals stumbled.
Dixon, who was the defending champion, revelled in the conditions on the final day, winning two races and finishing second in her other, but had too much ground to make up for after the first two days.
Henshaw gave herself a chance of snatching victory, opening the final day with a first and second to go into the final race only one point behind Garrett, but a fourth in the last race wasn’t enough.
As many as 13 teams competed in the women’s national keelboat championships, which meant teams all had three byes across the 13 races. Organisers are hopeful the resurgence in women’s keelboat racing will continue and they’re targeting a field of 20 teams in coming years.
Results and standings after the women’s national keelboat championships at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron:
1st: Sally Garrett (Royal Akarana Yacht Club) 2 1 3 bye 2 1 (6) bye 3 4 3 bye 2 – 21 points
2nd: Melinda Henshaw (Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron) (5) 3 bye 4 4 2 1 3 bye 1 2 bye 4 – 24 pts
3rd: Karleen Dixon (RNZYS) bye 4 2 4 3 (11 DSQ) bye 2 6 2 bye 1 1 – 25 pts