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Starling sailors show off skills

LAUREN PRIESTLEY
Last updated 05:00 18/01/2013
Starling boats

SAILING STARS: The Glendowie Boating Club has high hopes for this weekend’s Starling Match Racing Championship. Pictured are Jordelle Simkin and Alice Noyer racing in last year’s event.

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Seaworthy starling sailors from throughout New Zealand will show off their skills over the next three days at Glendowie Boating Club.

The 2013 New Zealand Starling Class Match Racing Championship starts tomorrow.

The event will see 12 regional representatives between the ages of 15 and 18 race head-to-head with the hopes of winning the Caltex Cup for their region. Central Auckland will be represented by William Linkhorn of Kohimarama Yacht Club.

Glendowie Boating Club committee member and former commodore Brian Peet says this is the first year the competitors will race in identical craft.

"In the past we have seen old boats competing against new boats which gives a bit of an advantage. This makes it much more fair."

Mr Peet has a personal history with starling yachts and says he grew up at Glendowie Boating Club.

His father John Peet was a foundation member of the club and conceived of the starling yacht design in the late 1960s.

At the time there were no single-handed boats for teenagers to sail which bridged the gap between the junior and adult classes.

Many young adults were leaving the sport because the step up to adult classes was too great.

Mr Peet says the starling class still works today as a stepping stone for teenagers to hone their sailing skills before moving into adult classes.

"For some reason, the kids love doing it. It's just a little-seen event in yachting that has passionate disciples."

This weekend's event shows starling racing is just as popular as it was 50 years ago, Mr Peet says.

"The class is one of the strengths of New Zealand yachting."

The yachts were designed with a simple construction method and materials.

"Originally it was very blue collar and people built their own boats but now it's becoming more of a wealthy sport. The starling aim was always to keep costs down."

Glendowie Boating Club has six starling yachts which will be used during the event.

Mr Peet says the club's ownership of the boats also makes it easy for newcomers to give yachting a try.

"If you provide the stuff, they can get a toe in the water and see if they like it."

The starling championship will be held at Glendowie Boating Club as close to shore as possible, depending on the wind and weather conditions. Mr Peet encourages anybody interested to attend and watch the races from the boat club's deck.

WHAT IS A STARLING?

Designed in the late 1960s, starlings are lightweight, single-handed boats which are generally sailed by teenagers. The yachts were designed with a simple construction method to be raced without need for continual equipment upgrades. Go to starling.org.nz for more information on the Starling Match Racing Championship this weekend. 

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- East And Bays Courier

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