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For the past 19 years Toyota New Zealand has been involved in supporting yachting, both at grassroots levels through the optimist national championships and at the elite level of the America’s Cup.
At Easter Toyota New Zealand again sponsored the Toyota Optimist National Championships, held at Murrays Bay Sailing Club on Auckland’s North Shore.
George Lee Rush (14 years) dominated the final day of the racing. George hails from Wakatere boating club – on the same coast as Murrays bay, a few nautical miles south. He put his stamp on the regatta, notching up four wins from four races - a standard that none of the gold fleet could match. After the first day of the regatta, Australian sailor Daniel Links (Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club) dominated the leader board and went into the final day with a seven-point lead.
The Sydney 15-year-old had won five of the seven races in the qualifier phase, and following the cut won the first race in the gold fleet.
However, on the penultimate day the breeze was a no-show, and despite three hours of postponement followed by another couple of hours on the water, no racing was possible. The decision was made to put an extra two races into the final day - for a total of four 35-minute races.
Unlike the previous day, the wind was in from the start - around 185 degrees at 14-16 knots, with some big variances in pressure, plenty of shifts and a strong ebb tide. It was a good test of sailing strategy - asking plenty of questions of the 205-boat fleet from eight nations.
Daniel, having dominated the regatta right to the final day, looked set to improve on his second overall in 2018, and appeared to have the trophy all but in his kitbag when the fleet came ashore on tuesday afternoon.
Although the sydneysider had scored second and third placings in the first and third races sailed, he got solidly into double figures in the two other races. His worst place going into the final day was a sixth, and the form reversal was surprising.
George, on the other hand, sailed confidently in the difficult and testing conditions, finishing the final race in commanding style. This gave him a 17-point margin over Daniel, with the third place-getter Lucas Day, from the host club, 26 points behind George.
The top female sailor was Amelia Angus (14 years) from Kohimarama Yacht Club, who finished seventh overall in the open fleet. She successfully defended her title won at Queen Charlotte Yacht Club in 2018.
Another Wakatere sailor, Tom Rebbeck (13 years) won the silver fleet, with fellow club member Josh Hilder (13 years) winning the bronze fleet. Wakatere sailors dominated the green fleet, with Nelsen Meacham (10 years) taking the title, and Tessa Clinton (11 years)
First female sailor. She placed second in the overall standings for the green fleet. Andrew Davis, Toyota New Zealand General Manager of Marketing, says, “we have a proud yachting heritage through our long-standing support of the Toyota Optimist National Championships and Emirates Team New Zealand, and have been fortunate enough to see some greats come up through the ranks in the past 19 years.”