An initially promising forecast for the Easter weekend had shifted to become somewhat more unpredictable, but nonetheless it was a super-keen crew who rocked up to Carbon Art HQ at 10 am on Good Friday ready to launch into a test of their wavesailing skills.
Competitors came from various parts of New Zealand and a range of international locations, including Italy, New Caledonia and Auckland. Big-ups especially to the juniors, Luke Holliday and William Novak, for making the trip and keeping the older guys on their toes, and to Yoan and Tony Despujols (back from New Caledonia again – you are practically locals!) and Nicola Terenzi (Italia) for giving the competition a truly international flavour. After having delivered a couple of months of decent port tack south-easterlies Taranaki was naturally kind enough to provide starboard tack conditions for the beginning of competition, so with the styley 2014 design T-shirts on (thanks OP and Spore!) the convoy headed for Kina Rd.
A crazy storm in the week leading up to Easter meant that there was still plenty of wind. And there appeared to be waves too… however the northerly swell with a three-second wave period, combined with strong super-gusty cross-offshores made for an interesting time on the water. While it looked like it should have been great fun, it proved to be quite a challenge; to find a decent size wave that would actually make its way into the break without disappearing underfoot and reappearing behind, in-front, out-back, down the line, or seemingly anywhere else but where you might be. It was, as one competitor described it “a lottery”. Therefore, competition was put on hold in the hope conditions would improve to be slightly less random. Unfortunately the randomness kept on coming, so we were left to retire to Carbon Art HQ; where the sausages and beers abounded and we learned that Ferran is tri-lingual – also speaking Italian!
Kina Road was once again the destination for Day Two; with lighter winds and a more westerly swell. While enthusiasm and the tide were high, unfortunately the wind was not. Luke Holliday and Nicola grabbed surfboards and had the most fun out of everyone during the late morning. An increase of a couple of knots in the afternoon sparked some excitement and a fun thirty minutes on the water, however it was simply fools-gold in front of some showers, culminating in the wind dying completely and some sailors having to swim their gear back to shore. Strike two for any hopes of competition action!
An underwhelming forecast came through on just the right day for a couple of competitors who were the worse-for-wear after some hard partying on the previous Saturday night. We all headed out to Waitara in the hope of some ‘mystery side-off’ craziness. Once again, there was enough wind (side-on) to get most everyone out there, but not enough to run a decent competition. Strike three. Was Taranaki about to be out for the count these nationals?
Day Four… Redemption… for Taranaki and Auckland
All hail! Not a moment to soon and Taranaki delivered. Solid logo high sets and enough wind to throw jumping into the mix at Ahu Ahu Road, and we had a competition on our hands. The judges set up camp at the top of the new ‘Ahu Cliffs Sands’ viewing area/resort and the first 15 minute heat was ready to hit the water at 11:15 am. Jumps were easy enough to come by on 5.0 metre sails and Paul Barron, Yoan and Mike La Franchie put on a solid display to open proceedings with some great late hits and big backward and forward loops.
To keep things interesting as the following heats went out the wind boosted up and down, making launching at the Ahu Ahu end of the break a tricky affair. Competitors occasionally found themselves stuck on the inside and faced with a crunchy headhigh plus shore dump as the tide filled in, and eking out an extra turn or aerial off the last section proved to be the end of a few competitors heats as they got stuck inside and on the fast-track down to Dirk’s corner. Carnage was occurring as well, with mast extensions snapping, fins getting taken out on rocks, boom clamps giving out, and Nicola creasing his board in a high forward attempt! To add to the fun the incoming tide created a ‘mini-tsunami’ that raced up the river below the judges and covered a few sails and boards with sand and water.
In the midst of the Open Mens’ rounds the juniors were sent out. Luke Holliday and Willam Novak put on a show of waveriding and jumping that would have had plenty of the Open Men’s competitors secretly pleased that they weren’t sailing against them. Nice effort guys, it was awesome to see such great skills out there in some challenging conditions!
As the spray settled after four preliminary and two secondary Open Men’s rounds we had a top four of Chris La Franchie, Nicola Terenzi, Thomas Davies and Ferran Crespo. It was an intense last round showdown to sort out the top two, with booming swell and tricky wind on the inside. Ferran pulled out some of his usual stylish waveriding, combined with a few backloops to blast his way into the first-elimination final, closely followed by Thomas Davies who was flying the flag high for Auckland. After initially looking like he had been caught inside with no way out Thomas made his way back with a vengeance to rack up some solid wave scores and jumps to progress ahead of Chris and Nicola.
Thomas and Ferran went toe-to-to for the final 15 minutes, matching each others’ wave scores and proving a real headache for the judges to pick a winner. Just when one looked to have pulled ahead with nice ride on a large set wave, the other would find a wave equally as good to claw themselves back into contention. In the end Thomas emerged as the victor of a tight heat after sailing the competition of his life. Congratulations Thomas, nice work!
1st Thomas Davies (Carbon Art, Hot sails Maui)
2nd Ferran Crespo (Simmer)
3rd Chris La Franchie (Carbon Art, Maui Sails)
4th Nicola Terenzi (Fanatic, North Sails)
1st Luke Holliday
2nd William Novak
Event Sponsors: Carbon Art, Taranaki Windsurf Club
(Photos thanks to SurfPhotoNZ – see more on their Facebook)