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Like father, like son: Will Mason on same tack as famous dad

Monday 17 April 2023, 1:27PM

By Yachting New Zealand

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Like father, like son: Will Mason on same tack as famous dad
Like father, like son: Will Mason on same tack as famous dad Credit: Yachting New Zealand

He’s sailed around the globe, competed in many of the world's most iconic yacht races, and lifted the America’s Cup four times - yet nothing has made veteran Kiwi sailor Matthew Mason prouder than witnessing his young son’s rare sailing feat over the weekend.

Fourteen-year-old Will Mason was on Saturday crowned the national champion in the Starling class, only five days after winning the Optimist national title.

He won four of 10 races in the Starling event at Manly Sailing Club, beating 49 other competitors despite only sailing the boat for the last three months.

Last Monday, Will also triumphed by 10 points in a 51-boat fleet at the Optimist nationals at Wakatere Boating Club.

“It feels amazing, especially coming out of the Optis and straight into the Starlings,” Will said.

“I’m pretty sore but I only get another day off before five more days of sailing in the secondary schools team national championships.”

The Starling is a popular singlehanded dinghy and is widely regarded as a transitional youth class for sailors up to 70kg.

At only 51kg, Will was one of the smaller boys in the fleet and had to battle his much bigger competition – and strong winds - on Friday.

“It was quite tough as I knew I didn’t have the pace of the others. Besides, the last time I sailed a Starling it was very windy – and I ended up capsizing every time I sailed downwind,” he said.

“On Friday I just wanted to eliminate as many mistakes as I could and get around the course in one piece.”

He did – leading by 18 points when racing was abandoned on Saturday due to 30kn+ winds – to hand the Year 10 Takapuna Grammar student the Starling title at his first attempt.

Dad Matthew is one of the country’s most renowned sailors, having completed 15 Sydney Hobart races and the Whitbread Round the World Race (now called the Ocean Race).

He also competed in seven America’s Cup campaigns, winning four.

“I was never the best dinghy sailor around and to say I’m stoked with what Will has achieved is an understatement. This weekend registers right up there with any of my achievements,” Matthew said.

“Will and I run our own little programme now and we’re both enjoying spending the time together. It’s very special.

“There's nothing better than watching your kids do well and supporting them - whether you're on the sideline at a rugby game or waist-deep in the water, pushing out an Optimist.”

Father and son “do get carried away” with their sailing talk on occasion, Will adds.

“Dad introduced me to the sport when I was about 7 and has been there helping me as much as he can but he mostly tries to stand back and let me do things my way.

“I like just having fun when I’m out sailing with my friends but winning every now and then is also not a bad feeling.”

Like his dad, Will wants to one day help Team New Zealand lift the Auld Mug.

“Seeing everything Dad has achieved definitely makes me want to be like him. And I do like the America’s Cup – especially with how fast the new generation of boats are going."

For now, Will’s focus is on this week’s schools regatta off Algies Bay north of Auckland, a tilt at qualifying for the youth world championships later this year - and his schoolwork.

“I just can’t keep him off the water. If he is given a choice between sailing and doing anything else, he’ll go sailing,” Matthew Mason said.

“At least that’s not the worst way to get through your teenage years.”