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Samantha Norman secures narrow victory in NZ Women's Match Racing Championship

by Andrew Delves – RNZYS PR & Communications Manager 14 Sep 00:18 NZST 14 September 2020
Final day - New Zealand Womens Match Racing Championships - Royal New Zealand yacht Squadron - September 13, 2020 © Andrew Delves

Samantha Norman and her crew of Bex Costello, Hanna Hielkema, Polly Powrie, and Miranda Addy, have been crowned 2020 NZ Women’s Match Racing Champions after defeating Celia Willison in a heart-stopping final.

First up the semi-finals got underway this morning in solid breeze, with Norman, who was unbeaten through both of the round robins, taking on Claudia Pierce. The other semi-final was an all Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Performance Programme clash between Celia Willison (Edge Women’s Match) and Megan Thomson (2.0 Racing).

Norman and Pierce had a great battle, with Norman winning the first match to continue her unbeaten run. But Pierce didn’t give it up easily, and came back to snatch the second match. The third and fourth matches were also close, but Norman won both to send her and her team into the final.

The all RNZYS PP semi-final saw some close racing, but it was Willison and her Edge Women’s Match team who showed their class to win the first two races, although they were both very close. The third race was also a tight one to begin, with Willison holding a slender lead off the start. Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on Thomson’s side, her tiller completely broke off on the first upwind leg leaving her without steering and without a chance of making the final.

Thomson then pulled it back in the petite final though, going on to defeat Pierce two-nil and claim third overall for the regatta.

The grand final was an absolute belter, with Norman and Willison trading blows in what were some incredibly close races. Willison found herself two-one up and leading on the final down-wind leg of the fourth match, but with the finish line in sight, Norman came storming through to take the lead and dash Willison’s hopes of ending the final right there and then.

This set up a fifth and final match with the championship on the line. Norman and her experienced team had a great start and Willison was trailing close behind for the first two legs but couldn’t quite get a jump into the lead. Norman then continued to extend her lead and charged downwind on the final leg to claim an emphatic victory.

This was Norman’s second NZ Women’s Match Racing Championship title, her first came in 2016, but her crew are no strangers to winning this event and have multiple titles between them. This one was extra special though and there has been a bit of time between drinks, with most of the crew now having young children and families who were all there to cheer them on throughout the regatta.

Norman was incredibly happy with her and her team's efforts as she reflected on their victory.

“It was actually just the most magical thing to be out there again and doing what we love. There was a lot of rust, I think our experience made it look like there wasn’t, but there definitely was plenty to begin with! The final was hard work and we were all comparing it to labour at one point, but it was fun and we were all smiling and laughing the whole time. It was the most fun racing we have ever been involved in. It’s always been one of the hardest regattas to win so to get it to match point and pull off the win is just really special.”

However not all of Norman’s crew had tasted victory at this event, and it was Bex Costello who had the biggest smile on her face at prizegiving -

“I’ve done this regatta eight times, the first time was when I was in the youth programme, so I couldn’t be happier to finally win one!”

The RNZYS would like to congratulate all of the fantastic female crews who took part in this regatta, and also thank the race management team, umpires, and all of the volunteers who made it happen.

Final Placings

1st – Samantha Norman
2nd – Celia Willison
3rd – Megan Thomson
4th – Claudia Pierce
5th – Holly McNeill
6th – Maeve White
7th – Ella Wilcox

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