Liesebach the Darling of the Starling’s for 2022
The best of New Zealand’s teenage match racers gathered at the RNZYS for the 2022 Starling Match Racing Championships on the 19th and 20th of January, with Napier Sailing Club’s Winston Liesebach making the most of the variable conditions to dominate proceedings and take the 2022 title to the Hawke’s Bay.
The Starling Match Racing Championships is a first introduction for New Zealand’s teenage dinghy sailors into the world of match racing, and with a match racing clinic on the day before the sailors were able to get back in a Starling after summer and get their heads around the complexities of the racing.
Day 1 was a beautiful Auckland day but caused a late start due to no breeze – with only one flight and a match able to be completed before midday. Time limits were the toughest competitor to start, with multiple races going over time and the marks reset with much shorter courses. The competitors had to battle both the Waitemata Harbour tide and a strong westerly on upwind legs, which meant the upwind racing was a struggle throughout the fleet. The starboard side of the course had a stronger current due to being closer to the main channel, which meant that the sailors that stuck to the port side found themselves with an advantage.
The first few races taught the sailors lessons about what the winning strategies would be throughout the day. Miro Luxford and Ethan Lecher were the first match able to finish within the time limits, with Miro able to get Ethan penalised in the pre-start. Ethan read the conditions better and stayed to the port side but couldn’t make up the gap caused by the penalty on the shortened course. Charlotte Palmer had excellent aggressive starts all regatta and was able to beat Sam Nicholl off the start line to the port side. Sam came to a standstill trying to go starboard, and Charlotte never looked like being caught.
The wind started to pick up for Flight 3, where Finn Malchin and Marcel van der Voort had the tightest first leg of the regatta to date. Marcel had a lead of 2 boat lengths around the top mark. Finn was able to bring the match back into his grasp on the 3rd leg, but Marcel pushed him out past the mark and took a very narrow win.
Two of the more dramatic races of Day 1 was between Ethan Lecher and Sam Clark, and Rory Sims and Sam Nicholl. Lecher and Clark went bow-to-bow for the first 3 legs with the sailors matching one another. However, on the final downwind leg Sam’s tack went awry and his starling ended up on its side for a split second – allowing Ethan to get away and take his first win of the day.
Sims was penalised early and did his best to win a penalty back from Nicholl at top mark as Nicholl’s boat went past point needed to tack. Duelling penalties were called on the final run home, with both owing penalties after crossing the line – with the race being called in Sims’s favour
Day 2 was a much choppier and windier day in Auckland, which made for much quicker sailing and longer courses. Winston Liesebach was able to finish the round robin’s unbeaten with Finn Malchin and Marcel van der Voort on 8 wins. After a strong day 1, Rory Sims started day 2 with two losses in his final round robin races.
Marcel van der Voort started his finals appearance with a decisive win over Rory Sims in race 1, but found himself capsizing on the first downwind leg of race 2 to give Rory an opportunity to get back into the matchup. However, van der Voort was able to quickly rectify his mistake, and pulled away to deservingly qualify directly as the first semi-finalist.
Sam Clarke showed much better pace in the windier and choppier conditions, winning his Day 2 Round Robin races and was able to dispatch Jimmy Scobie after Scobie won his first race of the regatta in race 2 of their series. He then took on Finn Malchin in the quarterfinals and took revenge for his round robin loss by beating the 2ndranked qualifier in 2 races, making his way into the semi-finals as the lowest ranked competitor remaining.
Miro Luxford had a daunting task in front of him – having Winston Liesebach in his road to the semifinals. However, he was able to get off to a great start and pulled off an upset in race 1 to hand Winston his first loss of the regatta. Winston needed to win the next 2 to avoid a surprise early exit and sailed a great race 2 to send it to a decider. Unfortunately for Miro, his costly capsize at the bottom mark handed a comprehensive race 3 win and a semi-final spot to Winston
This left the final semi-final spot to be decided by a 1 race repechage shootout between Rory Sims and Finn Malchin as the two highest ranked quarter-final losers. Sims was able to shake off his early struggles and was able to make a 15 second gap at the bottom mark. Malchin made his comeback on the 3rd leg and was able to reel in Rory to within a few boat lengths, but didn’t have enough downwind pace to make up the remaining gap – handing Rory Sims the final semi-final spot.
The first semi-final saw Winston Liesebach take an early lead win race 1 that was never challenged by Sam Clarke, but Liesebach needed to make some repairs on his Starling between race 1 and 2. However with a Clarke capsize at the bottom mark, Liesebach was able to book his ticket to the finals in 2 races.
Marcel van der Voort and Rory Sims had a rematch of their top 6 clash to decide who would be the other finalist. Rory had a downwind capsize in race 1 while alongside Marcel, which cost him an excellent opportunity to take the first race and Marcel ended up winning by a leg. Race two was just as even, however van der Voort was able to stretch a tight top mark lead into 3 lengths by the finish line.
The petit final between Sam Clarke and Rory Sims was just as competitive as the final, with race 1 coming down to a photo finish. Sam made a last minute move to attempt to squeak a win, but it was in vain as Rory held his line and took the win. The sailors took two different paths in race 2 and they stayed very close, but Rory caught a gust at the bottom mark to lead by a boat length around bottom mark. He stretched his lead on the final downwind, winning by 2 boat lengths to take 3rd.
The final deservedly matched up 2 of the consistently best sailors over the regatta, with Liesebach and van der Voort battling for the title. Both sailors felt each other out in race 1, with Winston able to lead at bottom mark by 2 lengths and stretched his lead to 4 as he crossed the line. Race 2 showed Marcel’s strength into the wind, as he was able to pass Winston never looked like being caught on the way to the finish. Race 3 had Winston covering Marcel and found a slight advantage, but the race stayed very tight the entire race and Liesebach was able to get his bow across the line first with van der Voort overlapping. Winston forced Marcel to go a long way left which meant that he came around the top mark with a 1 1/2 length lead that he was able to hold on to for the Starling MRC title.
We would like to thank the sailors for making the trip from around the country to compete this year, as well as a massive thank you to the Glendowie Boating Club and all the volunteers and umpires for putting on two days of top-tier youth match racing. We hope to see the Starling class go from strength to strength in 2022, and look forward to the 2023 edition.