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Harken International Youth Match Racing Championship underway

by Lisa Ratcliff 21 Nov 2018 21:04 PST 21-25 November 2018
Harken International Youth Match Racing Championship 2016 © Brendan Rourke

Racing in the Harken International Youth Match Racing Championship is under way on the narrow waterway of Pittwater to the north of Sydney, Australia, in westerly winds forecast to increase to a squally 30 knots by the afternoon on the opening day, Thursday November 22, 2018.

The Bureau of Meteorology has indicated a dust storm is possible for Sydney as gusty breezes blow across the state's dry interior to the coast Thursday and Friday before conditions are expected to ease over the weekend, when the regatta's second-half plays out climaxing in finals on Sunday November 25.

Twelve teams sailing for New Caledonia, the USA, New Zealand and Australia met at the host Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club on Wednesday afternoon for an official welcome and team introduction hosted by Commodore Michael Lockley and head coach Tom Spithill.

Leonard Takahashi, sailing for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, took out last year's Harken International and this week it was announced he has joined SailGP's Japanese team led by Australian 49er Olympic gold medallist Nathan Outteridge. Spithill says, "once again the Harken has proven an important step in the career development of the world's most promising young sailors."

Managing Director of the youth series' long-time naming rights sponsor Harken Australia, Grant Pellew, added at the official welcome: "In this room we could have the future leaders of this sport, possibly the next James Spithill."

Match racing is a complicated boat-on-boat round-robin competition where pairs try to out-manoeuvre and force penalties on each other, to stay on the right side of the judging team and gain the advantage to win the match or flight.

Coming into the 26th edition of the annual regatta for 23 year-olds and under is a mixture of those starting out on their match racing path to the winner of this year's Australian Open Match Racing Championship, James Hodgson and his Cruising Yacht Club of Australia crewmates and Juliet Costanzo, defending Australian Women's Match Racing Championship skipper competing for the host club.

Hodgson is the highest ranked skipper on the starting list, currently 35th in the world, and best-placed for a tilt at the $1000 prizemoney for first place offered by Harken Australia. Jordan Stevenson sailing for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron is ranked 68th and brings the pedigree of that club's well-established youth program which has sailors training both Saturdays and Sundays almost year-round, plus gym time.

Furthest travelled are the two Balboa Yacht Club teams from Newport Beach in the USA and nationally Darwin Sailing Club is represented as are three Sydney clubs, the RPAYC, CYCA and Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. Among the 12 skippers are two women, Juliet Costanzo and Charlotte Griffin, and many teams are sailing with a mixed crew with the choice of four or five per boat.

Teams list: Skipper, home yacht club, city/country:

  • David Wood - Balboa Yacht Club - Newport Beach, USA
  • Jeffrey Petersen - Balboa Yacht Club – Newport Beach, USA
  • Tom Picot - Cercle Nautique Calédonien - Noumea, New Caledonia
  • Jed Cruickshank - Darwin Sailing Club - Darwin, Australia
  • Thomas Steenson - Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club - Newcastle, Australia
  • Frankie Dair, Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron - Auckland, New Zealand
  • Jordan Stevenson - Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, Auckland, New Zealand
  • Lachlan Grimwade - Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club - Wellington, New Zealand
  • James Hodgson - Cruising Yacht Club of Australia - Sydney, Australia
  • Charlotte Griffin - Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron – Sydney, Australia
  • James Farquharson - Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club – Sydney, Australia
  • Juliet Costanzo - Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club – Sydney, Australia
Grant Pellew sent his welcome message to be read out to the assembled competitors, while he enjoys the rare opportunity to race himself - in Queensland at the A-Cat Worlds, but promised he'd be back in Sydney for the finals. "The Harken International is one of the longest running sailing sponsorships in Australia and testament to the RPAYC, it's hardworking volunteers and competitors. I'm excited to announce that Harken has just signed on for another three years' event sponsorship."

"Those from New Zealand will know the 'Gully breeze'," said RPAYC Commodore Michael Lockley. "Well westerlies on Pittwater are going to be just as challenging as the direction moves around a fair bit. Our staff have been working diligently to make sure you have the best gear available," he added, referring to the club's immaculately prepared Elliott 7 keelboats that were used recently at the Invictus Games.

Follow the live results here.

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