QCYC sailors’ sportsmanship a highlight of regatta

Emily Overend and Harry Edwards, left, help Bay of Islands Yacht Club sailors Jack Honey and Helena Sanderson bring their shared boat in after the final race. Photo: Supplied. 

Not all winners get to stand on the podium.

Sport occasionally produces instances when an act of sportsmanship, or kindness, from competitors further down the field overshadows the achievements of those at the top.

One such recent occasion involved Queen Charlotte Yacht Club sailors Emily Overend, 16, and 14-year-old Harry Edwards.

The talented duo were at the Royal Akarana Yacht Club in Auckland during February, sailing a Nacra 15 in the Oceanbridge Regatta.

The regatta was important for all concerned, being a selection event designed to choose which crew would represent New Zealand at the Youth World champs in Poland in July.

The Nacra 15 is a catamaran, capable of reaching 20 knots downwind, sailed by mixed crews.  After the first two days Emily and Harry were sitting in fourth position, out of contention for top spot, but still with a chance of snatching third on the final day.

Leading the standings was Jack Honey and Helena Sanderson from the Bay of Islands Yacht Club, who had set the pace throughout and held a handy, but certainly not unassailable lead.

The last day of the regatta saw plenty of action. On the course were a large fleet of Olympic 49ers, 49erFX and Nacra 17, plus the two Youth Classes that go with those Olympic classes, the 29er and Nacra 15.

With 15 to 20 knot winds on a short three-lap course, sailing was fast and technical.

While manouevering to miss a 49er, the Bay of Islands duo collided at high speed with a Nacra 17, neither noticing the other.

The Nacra 15 mast fell on top of the Nacra 17 and, although all the sailors were unhurt both boats, who led their respective classes, were completely out of action.

With two more races to sail it appeared all over for Jack and Helena who, by not finishing the last three races, would lose the chance to win which they had built up over the first nine races.

However, a lifeline was at hand. Emily picks up the story.

“We were pretty new to the [Nacra] class while and Jack and Helena had been in it for a couple of years and had helped us quite a bit.

“So, when their boat was written off we offered to take their crashed boat back to the beach and let them use our boat for the last two races, to carry on and see if they could win it. It was Jack’s last year [in the Nacra 15] as well, whereas we have another year in the class.

“We also wanted to see the best team go and represent New Zealand at the worlds.”

The decision to end their regatta prematurely and help the others was unanimous, explained Emily.

“We were coming down the last run and we saw them crash and thought ‘oh, that’s not great’. We carried on and finished, then talked about it and said we should probably offer [our boat] to them, thinking that they could turn it down if they don’t want it.

“Then we asked the race committee and they said it was alright for us to do that.”

After switching craft, the Bay of Islands duo went out and won their final two races, in an unfamiliar boat, to clinch the title and book a place at the Youth Worlds.

That wasn’t the end of the matter though, with protests being lodged by rival crews after the boat swap. After four hours deliberation, the race committee found in Jack and Helena’s favour.

Darryl Honey, club captain of the Bay of Islands club, said they were overwhelmed by their rivals’ gesture.

“People cried when they heard what [Emily and Harry] had done, for the generosity of it.”

He recalled a similar incident at the 2008 Olympics for the 49erclass when the Croatian team donating their boat to the Danish team, allowing them to finish the medal race and win gold.

“There were also protests then, which were overturned.  For their generosity, the Croatian team was awarded the True Spirit of Sportsmanship Award by the International Olympic Committee. This was a very big deal, only 22 people or teams have ever received this honour.

“Harry and Emily, there is no Yachting New Zealand version of this Sportsmanship Award, but we’re working on it, because there’s a lot of people who are impressed by your quick and clear thinking and action to gift your boat.

“Jack and Helena now head away to Poland, and they carry you with them in their hearts.

“Thank you from the Bay of Islands to your families and the club that supports them. Queen Charlotte Yacht Club, you are the home of amazing sailors.”

Emily and Harry will return to the regatta next year, hoping next time to win both on and off the water.

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