Samantha Norman and her crew of Bex Costello, Hana 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.

In the first semi-final Norman, who was unbeaten through both of the round robins, took 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 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 broke off on the first upwind leg leaving her without steering and without a chance of making the final.

Thomson 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 downwind 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.

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 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 also 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.

“It was actually just the most magical thing to be out there again and doing what we love,” says Norman. “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.”


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