On Sunday, alongside Harry Hall, Nick Rozenauers and skipper James Hodgson, we successfully won the Harken Youth International Regatta; hosted by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron on Auckland Harbour. The four-day event was the final lead-up to the 2020 Youth Match Racing World Championship, resulting in a strong line-up of international competitors keen to test the waters in the week prior to the worlds.
The opening day saw three teams from three different countries unbeaten on top of the leader board. Thankfully we were one of them, given the light, fluky conditions and strong tide that could have caused a number of upsets. Day Two saw racing postponed for most of the morning due to a lack of wind. We finally got out in light breeze and raced pretty well for most of the day, with only a small blemish after a close loss to world number two Egnot-Johnson's RNZYS PP KNOTS Racing late in the day.
Day Three was the start of the Quarter-Finals and after forty five days of no rain in Auckland, the heavens opened making for really tricky conditions and ever-changing wind strengths. Rain swept across the course taking away all the breeze, then it would stop briefly and the wind would return, before the next rain front hit. We managed to qualify for the Semi-Finals with a fairly comfortable 3-0 win over Emil Kjaer's team from Denmark to join the other semi-finalists Aurelien Pierroz (France), Nick Egnot-Johnson (New Zealand) and Jordan Stevenson (New Zealand) crews respectively.
On the penultimate day, we were greeted by a strong twenty-three to thirty knot South-Westerly breeze in the morning, which stayed in all day, providing challenging conditions for competitors and a pretty impressive spectacle for those watching. Somewhat surprisingly, the Semi-Finals were similar to the Quarter-Finals, with both successful teams finishing in the minimum three races and we found ourselves straight into the Final against Jordan Stevenson's crew (New Zealand) after successfully beating Nick Egnot-Johnson's team with a 3-0 scoreboard.
The first race of the final was tight, with both boats separated by a small margin, and it wasn't until the final downwind leg, when we had a failure with our spinnaker halyard and incurred a penalty, that Stevenson's team grabbed a one-nil lead. The next three races were less eventful, where we managed to maintain good speed downwind, leading throughout, and ultimately came away with the Championship.
We are obviously thrilled with the win in such an important event leading into the Worlds and very happy to secure a victory over Jordan Stevenson's and Nick Egnot-Johnson's crews, who have both beaten us before after some very tight racing. With the heavier breeze in the final, we mainly focused on getting the boat around the course in one piece and doing all the basics well. Ultimately, having sailed together for a while now, we know our roles pretty well and feel confident in our teamwork across a broad range of conditions.
Despite the win, our focus remains firmly on next week and the Harken 2020 Youth Match Racing World Championship. With a world title on the line and the best youth teams from around the globe competing, we know we are in for a real battle but are looking forward to the fight!
P.S. I apologise for not updating you on the Warren Jones International Regatta, raced in the last week in January and the Hardy Cup, held immediately after. In the past four weeks I have been in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and now Auckland and have struggled to find time to update my blog. Despite the delay, I will put up a report on these important regattas shortly.