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Takahashi wins 2018 Nespresso Youth International Match Racing Cup

by Andrew Delves, RNZYS 13 Feb 01:30 PST 13 February 2018
Takahashi and his winning crew at the 2018 Nespresso Youth International Match Racing Cup © Andrew Delves

Leonard Takahashi and his RNZYS Performance Programme Pacific Racing Team crew of Josh Wijohn, Taylor Balogh, Ibuki Koizumi and George Lee Rush have won the 2018 Nespresso Youth International Match Racing Cup at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

Skippers were greeted by another rainy Auckland day this morning, which was fitting seeing as the majority of the regatta was sailed in wet weather, but this didn’t stop our four keen semi-finalists from taking to the water.

James Wilson from the RNZYS Youth Training Programme was the top seed heading into the finals so it was his choice on who he would sail against in the Semi-Finals. Wilson selected Finn Tapper from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, which left Takahashi taking on Jordan Stevenson (RNZYS YTP) in the other semi-final.

Wilson, who came back from being two-nil down in the quarterfinals, found himself in another ding-dong battle - this time against Tapper - that saw some extremely tight racing and provided another nervous final that came right down the final match. With the scores tied two each, it was all on in the final match but the local boy Wilson managed to find his form and keep his composure to win and book himself a spot in the grand finale. “I was pretty worried; it was almost a repeat of our quarterfinal. We were doing well in the pre-starts, but we kept making mistakes up the course. In the fourth match we could have really finished it off, but we didn’t, then the fifth race was really close, there were heaps of penalties and flags flying up and down, but we were stoked to get over the line and make the final.”

Tapper, the second seed coming out of the round robin, sailed a very impressive regatta and it could have gone his way in that final match against Wilson, but it just wasn’t quite to be “It was really close racing and super close, lots of penalties and stuff, so it was great racing. That last race we were a bit overaggressive, putting things into the umpires hands instead of just sailing our own race. James [Wilson] sailed well, whenever he seemed like he was out of it he would come back - so a big credit to him, he’s sailing really well.”

The second semi-final started ominously as Takahashi went up two-nil over his fellow Squadron sailor Stevenson. However, with his back against the wall and one loss away from elimination, Stevenson wasn’t going to roll over that easily – striking back to take the third match to make the score two - one.

The pre-start for the fourth match was a real battle, with both teams pushing each other in the start box in the driving rain, but then the unthinkable happened. Takahashi was pushing hard, and with the boats in the shallows and very close to the rocks, Stevenson had nowhere to go, ending up on the rocks off the Westhaven sea-wall. This was the worst possible result for Stevenson who was black flagged and had to be towed off, therefore ending his semi-final campaign and sending Takahashi to the big dance. “Yeah we got a bit unlucky and washed up onto the rocks, but you know, these things happen. It’s always a tough match going up against someone like Leonard [Takahashi], but we went in with heads high and hoping for the best. It was pretty tight, to be honest, all the races were close, and we managed to nick one off him. He was really quick around the course, so I think he deserved to go through to the final.”

Takahashi offered his thoughts on the incident that sent him to the final “yeah it was a marginal one, we dialled up and decided to go bow on starboard and he decided to go bow on port which was really close to the wall and he just ended up sliding into it and gave it away to us. It was really good to race Jordan though; he’s a good upcoming skipper, so we were really happy to come out on top in that one.”

With the Semi-finals completed it was Wilson and Takahashi who were ready to race it out in the final, a repeat of the Harken Youth International in Sydney at the end of last year, as well as Tapper taking on Stevenson in the petite final.

Tapper, who has shown a lot of class in Auckland this week, won the petite final two-nil and claimed third place overall in the regatta. The racing, however, was very close but it was a mistake by Stevenson in the second match when he went around the wrong mark that handed the third place spoils to the Australian. “It was a bit interesting, we sailed the first race well and Jordan had us in a good position in the second but unfortunately he went around the wrong mark, so it was a bit anti-climactic, we were a bit lucky there.” Asked how he felt the regatta went as a whole, Tapper replied: “We were disappointed not the make the finals but that’s sailing, and we hope to do better next week in Wellington.”

In the grand-final, it was clear to those watching from the side-lines that Takahashi and his team were here to win, especially when they quickly went two-nil up. Wilson was still sailing well, but he couldn’t quite catch up to Takahashi who had excellent boat speed, and even when they got penalties they were able to get rid of them without losing their lead. The third match was a similar story, Takahashi picked up a penalty in the pre-start but raced out to a decent lead, got rid of his penalty and charged down the final leg to win the Nespresso Youth International Match Racing Cup final three-nil. “Despite the score, it was really tight racing, we gave ourselves a few penalties in the starts, but good crew work and boat speed from the guys allowed us to claw back and get a good enough lead to wipe them out. I’ve been sailing these boats for about six years now, so it feels good to get the win. I’m really happy with how we were able to take this one out, it’s a big one for us, and we’re looking forward to Centerport in Wellington this weekend.”

Wilson wasn’t quite as thrilled with his finals performance “The final was quite tough, we started well and got a few penalties on him [Takahashi] but then our course positioning and upwind speed weren’t amazing, and our tacks weren’t that great, so that’s a work on for next time. We will get him eventually.”

This is another big win for Takahashi who is on a rich vein of form at the minute after winning his last four match racing regattas, including the Youth Nationals in Wellington, the Musto and Harken Youth Internationals in Sydney, and can now add the Nespresso Youth International Match Racing Cup to his collection of titles. Asked whether the team can make it five in a row in the capital, Takahashi was coy not to get too excited “yeah hopefully, I mean that’s not the end goal, but we’re all here to improve, and we just want to go out there and have good racing.”

We may have only had the top four teams racing today, but the regatta wouldn’t be possible without the other eleven teams who took part. We would like to thank all the teams who travelled to Auckland – whether it was from Australia, New Caledonia, from around New Zealand, or even the team who flew the farthest to get here, Trent Turigliatto and his Long Beach Yacht Club team who had a great time in the City of Sails “We loved Auckland, it was our first time coming down here, and we were more than excited to be here. It was one of the best regattas I’ve ever done so hopefully we can come back next year.”

The regatta would also not be possible without our superb Race Management and Umpire team, who had some challenging conditions to deal with across the four days but managed to get all the racing completed perfectly. Speaking after the regatta, Race Officer Colin Lucas offered his thoughts “The conditions made the event rather trying, but we had to grit our teeth and get through it.”

We look forward to welcoming teams back at the Squadron in 2019, and with the youth talent that was on show this week, it is guaranteed to be another fantastic regatta.

Key Regatta Information:

- Follow the LIVE results from the racing click here - - Follow RNZYS on Facebook for our Day Three Photo album and updates Facebook.com/RNZYS

- Follow @rnzys on Instagram for Photo’s, Updates and Stories throughout the regatta

- RNZYS Website for more updates and regatta information click here

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