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Wānaka sailors inspire at SailGP event

The Wānaka App

Sue Wards

26 March 2024, 4:00 PM

Wānaka sailors inspire at SailGP eventEvent winners Madi Smith (left) and Mabel North.

Eight young Wānaka sailors competed in the NZ RS Feva Inspire Sail GP championships this past weekend, with the duo of Madison (Madi) Smith and Mabel North winning the event.

Mabel and Madi joined Thomas Jurczyluk, Oli Wyeth, Dan Russel, Joel Gemmel, Matthew Jurczyluk, and Kate Russell at the event in Lyttelton, which runs parallel to the SailGP event. 

The SailGP Inspire programme allows young sailors to compete at the SailGP venue, rub shoulders with some of the top sailors in the world, and get a taste of professional sailing, organisers said.

The eight young Wānaka Yacht Club members - all under 16 years old - were selected for the invitational event from sailors around New Zealand.

Event coordinator Hayden Whitburn told the Wānaka App it was the first time an all female team had won an event like this “for a long time”.

“I think it’s the first time a South Island team has won an event like this in the RS Feva,” he added.

The event was oversubscribed with applications and it was great to have a “really high standard of sailors from all around the country”, he said.

National champs will be held in Auckland in April and he said Madi and Mabel should be thinking about taking part.

Madi and Mabel attended the RS Feva Inspire event last year, taking 11th place among the girls’ teams. 

The fact they came first this year in the youth event was a “testament to the development the event and the programme in Wānaka provides”, Madi’s father Quentin Smith said.

“The Inspire event has been a huge boost and opportunity for these kids to sail in an elite event.”

The Wānaka team sailed over four days, with one training day, and received coaching from a previous world champion. The team also got a tour of technical bases and met some of the SailGP athletes.

Third equal (on points) were Oli Wyeth (left) and Thomas Jurczyluk. 

Quentin said they weren’t affected by the dolphins which delayed some SailGP races.

Results for the four Wānaka teams (out of 25 boats) were first place for Mabel and Madi; fourth (third equal on points) for Thomas Jurczyluk and Oli Wyeth; 16th for Dan Russel and Joel Gemmel; and 18th for Matthew Jurczyluk and Kate Russell.

PHOTOS: Justin Mitchell