Auckland

As in the previous year the 2009 Auckland Freestyle Champs was run again on stand by to get the best conditions possible so the stand by period was set for the whole month of May with each Saturday and Sunday being a possible event day.

The weather systems during that time of the year are normally a bit windier and consistent - but what is normal in these days anyway? The first weekend in May had a terrific forecast, 30+ Knots for 4-5 days in a row but it became quickly apparent that the direction was SE, which is the most unreliable of all for the Auckland area. After a bit of gambling the decision was made to postpone the event to the following weekend. As it turned out the wind never arrived for the first weekend – luckily!

A similar scenario showed up on the weather charts for the second weekend – but this time it was going to blow SW for most of the week. That was the forecast we were hoping for as the westerly winds are the most reliable for Auckland.
The news went out and all thumbs up to run the event that weekend. It was scheduled to start at 10am on Saturday 9. May, which was a good timing as a lot of Mum’s would have missed out on some family time if it would have been run on Sunday, Mother’s day.

Pt. Chev was once again chosen as the comp location as it offers the best and biggest wind range in these conditions and plenty of water even at low tide.

Once the registration was completed and the competitors were divided into two groups, one thing became obvious: This comp was not going to be easy to win, as the sailing standard of most competitors was very high. After two big local names moved from the comp last year straight into the judging panel this year it made it even more interesting to see who was going to take the trophy home this time. Pete Smith from Auckland Windsurfing (Winner of the Auckland Freestyle Champs 2008) and Mario Leitner, Auckland’s freestyle import from Austria brought their expertise and know how to the judging sheet and made for a fair competition.

After an hour of waiting and chatting on the beach the first heat started off at 11.00 am with 7 sailors showing off everything they could in a marked off area for 20 min in an expression session. The top 4 was drawn out of that first run but with very shifty and gusty conditions it wasn’t an easy heat to win.
Tim Haxell and Eric Torvelainen, who both came up all the way from Wellington, made it through to the next round next to Auckland local Jebbe Unthank and Katja Oberhofer from Switzerland.

Getting heat B under way proved a bit more difficult as the wind wasn’t in our favor this time. As every cloud that came up on the horizon had the potential to start the heat with that little bit of extra wind, all competitors decided to be on the water close to the safety boat and watch the flags carefully. Once a bigger gust arrived heat B was started as well and all 8 competitors sailed the best they could in those conditions. Planning one minute meant parking the other. Showing a good repertoire of moves even when not planning was the key to make it through to the next round.

After an exhausting 20 minutes the top 4 of heat B were: Thomas Davies, Ashley Palmer and French import Antoine Bonnet from Auckland and Spencer Lewis from Taranaki.

It was time for a break as the wind had dropped again and there were some hungry sailors to be fed. Sausages and beers did wonders to the competitors and weather and the Red Bull girls might have had something to do with the change as well. The sky cleared, the sun came out and we started to see proper white caps on the water. It was time to run the semi final. The top eight sailors were competing against each other which resulted in some incredible moves but also some serious crashes during that heat.
Flakas, grubbys, spocks and even the odd spinloop impressed the judges and made their job even harder to decide who made it through to the final.

In the end it was Thomas Davies, Tim Haxell, Jebbe Unthank and Spencer Lewis who had enough points to go through to the final which was run after a short break from the semi. The wind was still gusty but stronger than in the morning so we didn’t want to waste any valuable time and started the 20 minute final as the safety boat was still on it’s way out to the marked off area.

What a fantastic sight off the boat, to see so many good sailors on such a small area pulling move after move. Incredible! Tim showed some very stylish well executed moves but also risked a lot and crashed a few times in the final. Spencer, as expected, had a broad variety of difficult moves but couldn’t keep up with the lightweights in this comp as they were planning more on a 5.6
In the end it was Thomas Davies who has shown the biggest improvements since last years comp and really stood out from this competition. Well deserved he took out this years Auckland Freestyle Champs and received the trophy at the prize giving.

In the loser’s round it was Chris McLead and Paul Marscott who fought out the battle which in the end resulted in a flipped coin that determined who took out the best “hotshot” of the 2009 Auckland Freestyle Champs. The winner was Chris who can now take free lessons for a freestyle move of his choice, thanks to Pete Smith from Auckland Windsurfing.

At the end of the event the drawing of the spot prizes kept most competitors around in the freezing conditions, but it was well worth it. From dinner vouchers, over windsurf accessories to wetsuits kindly donated by all sponsors of this event, almost everyone had reason to celebrate.

A special thanks to all the Event Sponsors: Gaastra, Tabou, Squid Row, O’Neill, Boardstore NZ and Windsurfing Auckland.
Also a big thanks to the Judges, Pete Smith, Mario Leitner and to Tim Wood and Merilyn Auton for their time, help, safety boat and ongoing effort.

Windsurfing events in New Zealand wouldn’t be happening without the effort and support of industry and individuals, you know who they are - so please support these in return!

Final Ranking:

1. Thomas Davies
2. Tim Haxell
3. Spencer Lewis
4. Jebbe Unthank
5. Antoine Bonnet
6. Ashley Palmer
7. Katja Oberhofer
8. Eric Torvelainen
9. Tony Knussen
10. Chris McLead / Paul Marscott
11. -
12. Mike Mead
13. Rewa Kawiti / Pete Sawyer / Kristaps Maulwurfs DNF