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20th Annual Harken International Youth Match Racing Championship

by Damian Devine on 20 Nov 2012
James Spithill Damian Devine
James Spithill, the skipper of defending America’s Cup sailing team BMW Oracle Racing, will be the honorary speaker at the opening ceremony of the 20th Annual Harken International Youth Match Racing Championships. Being a former two-time HARKEN titlist himself, Spithill will be giving lectures to get the young sailors ready for the competition hosted by the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club on the scenic Pittwater from the 20th of November to 25th of November.

James Spithill, one of the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club’s favourite sons and defending America’s Cup winning skipper is back in Australia especially to be the ambassador for the 20th annual HARKEN International Youth Match Racing Championships, hosted by the RPAYC from Tuesday 20 November until Sunday 25 November.

A dual winner of this prestigious event, Spithill will be guest speaker at the opening ceremony on Wednesday to welcome the competitors and talk about his history with the Harken and the doorways it opened for him. He will also mentor a couple of training clinics for the teams on the club’s fleet of Force 24s today and tomorrow. No doubt he will provide some added inspiration and motivation for the competitors.

'The Harken' as it is known in youth sailing circles worldwide stands out as one of the premier events for youth on the international match racing calendar and has during its 20 year history served as a launch pad for a number of local yachting stars including dual winning skippers James Spithill, Michael Dunstan, Seve Jarvin and more recently Torvar Mirsky.

This year ten teams from Australia and New Zealand will compete for the coveted Rockin’ Robin Perpetual Trophy* with four teams from New Zealand and six from Australia. The kiwis have their hands on the trophy and have done so for the past three years on the trot so the Aussie teams will need to be on their toes in order to win it back.

Defending champion Dave Hazard from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron is back to defend his title and said he is looking forward to the challenge after his inaugural regatta win in the 2011 Harken. 'This is a great event and I had such a good time last year so I am looking forward to racing on Pittwater again to hopefully defend the title. No doubt there will be some challenging conditions and tough match racing over the next few days.'

Other teams will come from the host club The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club, Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club and Gosford Sailing Club. There will be three female skippers in Stephanie Doyle and Milly Bennett both from the RPAYC and the third with an all female crew from Royal New Zealand skippered by Claudia Pierce.

The 2012 Harken International event is certified Grade 3 for ISAF match race rankings. After a team weigh-in, training and opening ceremony on Wednesday, match racing will commence on Pittwater on Thursday and conclude with the finals on Sunday 25 November.

The courses will be standard match racing windward/leeward set up and racing will take place in the big pond just north of Scotland Island.

The regatta will be sailed in the Club's fleet of Force 24' yachts which are purpose built for match racing.

Each team can have up to five crew with a maximum crew weight limit of 350Kg, all of who must be under 21 years of age.

The teams will sail two complete round robins with every team racing each other twice. The top four teams will then battle it out in a series of semi finals and finals with the final being the best of five final to decide the winner.

Race Officer for the event will once again be Ted Anderson whose experience goes back to the Olympic match racing in 2000 and Chief Umpire will be Phil Mostyn who leads a formidable cast of umpires with national and international experience.

Teams will be billeted with RPAYC Club members, a custom that has forged many longstanding friendships in past years. The organisation of an event of this calibre would not be possible without the aid of a dedicated team of volunteers and RPAYC members.

One of the premier events for youth on the match racing circuit, the 2012 HARKEN International Youth Match Racing Championship marks the 15th consecutive year with HARKEN Australia as naming rights sponsor and is one of the longest standing regatta partnerships in the world.

Their ongoing commitment to the development of youth match racing is a credit to the Northern Beaches leading manufacturer and marketer of quality sailboat hardware and accessories.

Conditions are forecast to be 20-25 knot southerly tending 15-20 knot south easterly for the first day of competition.

Follow all the action on the water from Thursday with live results on the event website.

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