Queen Charlotte Yacht Club's young guns are keen to make their mark when the club hosts their annual Interislander Optimist Challenge regatta on Picton Harbour over the next three days.
In conjunction with the optimist regatta, the club is also hosting this season's South Island Starling Championships.
Apart from when the optimist nationals are held in the mainland, approximately once every five years, the Interislander Optimist Challenge is the biggest junior regatta in the South Island. It doubles as the third-ranking regatta in a four-regatta series, including the national champs in Timaru this April, that decides who qualifies to represent New Zealand internationally - and the addition of the Starling regatta makes the combined fleet a very impressive one.
First year QCYC sailors Billie Watson, Emily Overend, Aaron Townsend, Jasper Hopkins, Sam Chattor Waddy, Ben Turnbull and brand new sailors Lachie and Rosanna Brown, Suede Cowley and Jake Morris will be aiming for consistency in the 43-strong optimist green fleet.
These keen youngsters are pushing along the more experienced QCYC members and several are likely to become top-class competitors in the years to come.
The Picton-based club has developed a strong junior and youth programme over the past few years, with many towards the top of NZ and international fleets. Names such as Hamish Clark and Alastair Gifford are expected to feature at the front of the 90-strong optimist open fleet, while Sir Peter Blake Memorial Regatta champ Callum Radford is one to watch in the 32-boat starling fleet.
Much like the green fleet, there are many highly promising youngsters in both the optimist open and starling fleets. Oliver Cowley, Jack Tripe, Max Gibbs and Alex and Kate Overend are names to look for in the optimist opens, while Henry Gibbs, Lee Stuart and Nicholas Gardiner have been climbing the ladder in the starling.
The regatta opens when the club cannon is fired at 9am tomorrow morning, followed by the official welcome from club commodore David Clark.
Optimist open sailors begin their racing tomorrow, while the optimist green and starling fleets get underway on Saturday.
Spectators can view the green fleet racing from the QCYC jetty or Shelley Beach.
Once again, tomorrow night sees the welcoming of the green fleet and starling sailors to the regatta with the popular Taste of Marlborough event. The opportunity for parents, supporters, officials and coaches to taste some of the best local food and wine adds a dimension not experienced at any other New Zealand regatta.
- The Marlborough Express