Harken National Secondary Schools Keelboat Championship – Ōtūmoetai College

 In News, Youth Training Programme

Otumoetai College’s sailing pedigree has mainly focused on Teams Sailing regatta’s in the 420 class – but for the first time in the school’s history Otumoetai is targeting the Harken National Secondary Schools Keelboat Championship. The Tauranga school has put together a team of dinghy sailors, and got to work over the last 2 years sailing keelboats – making the move to jump into an Elliott 7.

The crew is mostly made up of girls, with Teaghan Denney on helm, Kate Amundsen on main, Harrison Dent on trim, Rhys Stewart on bow and Kiera Chantler as float. 

“Our coach Braedyn is a former Otumoetai College student and owns TKCoaching with an Elliott 7, that is the same design as the boats for Nationals – he’s keen to promote sailing in the area so encouraged us to enter, and kindly offered his expertise and boat to train on  – so a huge thanks to him for pushing us” says the team.

“We describe ourselves as a green team, and we have to fit our training around many other commitments but we manage to get on the Elliott twice a week, as well as catching up on Zoom for a theory session once a week”, says Teaghan. “We focus on the basics, building a foundation of keelboat sailing skills and always aim to learn something new by asking Braedyn lots of questions”.

Otumoetai College has always been a stalwart school for the Secondary Schools Teams Sailing National Championship’s, which can be seen in the dinghy sailing experience that this team possesses – they also count former RNZYS Youth Training Programme coach and familiar face to many at the Squadron Kevin “KP” Peet as alumni of the College.

Denney is the most experienced sailor, being selected for the 2022 Youth Laser Radial World Championships in the Netherlands later in the year. She sailed in New Zealand Optimist ranking regattas from 8 to 15, being given the opportunity to sail Optimists in Sydney, Hobart and Myanmar as well as representing the Bay of Plenty for the P-Class Tanner and Tauranga Cups.

Kiera Chantler and Kate Amundsen have been sailing as part of the Tauranga Young Mariners, and have plenty experience aboard sunbursts and cutters. Amundsen and Rhys Stewart have transferred their skills from Otumoetai’s 420 team to keelboats last year, with 420 Class team captain Stewart having only made the step to keelboats in 2020. As part of the Tauranga Yacht Club for keelboat racing, Harrison Dent has the most keelboat experience of the crew. The team has also been recruited by their coach Braedyn as part of his Youth Match Racing team that gives them more opportunities aboard the Elliott 7.

“Teaghan, Kate and Rhys are year 13 students and have been sailing together or against each other for some time and know each other well, not just from sailing but at school too – this core group are a key strength of the team” said manager Richard Dent. “Keira and Harrison are year 11 students and have recently joined the team but couldn’t have fit in better – Harrison, as the only male in the team just does as he is told!” 

As the Harken National Secondary School Keelboat Championships gets closer, Otumoetai’s focus at the moment is dealing with pressure situations and effectively communicating. Team comradery however is high, with singalongs and chatting keeping spirits up at the end of trainings. “Luckily, we make lots of mistakes training so we are getting plenty of practice!” says the team.

With much of the team’s experience coming from dinghy sailing, the transfer of skills and overall confidence to handle a bigger boat has taken some time to build due to having to re-learn manoeuvring. However this is to be expected, with Otumoetai College only starting sailing keelboats in 2020. Otumoetai originally aimed to enter in 2021, but with the disruption caused to their training schedule they did not feel confident enough to enter. 

This left the team having to rebuild for 2022, with just Teaghan Denney and Rhys Stewart remaining from last year. Fortunately the school does have sailors in their ranks from their 420 team to take the reigns going forward once their Year 13 core of Denney, Stewart and Kate Amundsen leave.

“We’d love to be in the Gold Fleet for the final day this year, because we lose a bunch of members and will have to form a new team around Harrison and Keira” says the crew. However the Otumoetai College team isn’t looking to 2023 yet, and can’t wait to get stuck into the Harken National Secondary Schools Keelboat National Championships against 19 other teams from across New Zealand. “School sports offer so many opportunities – they allow you to get out of your comfort zone, are a great opportunity to hang out with friends and meet new people you otherwise wouldn’t get the chance to, and helps develop teamwork and individual skills” 

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