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Twelve teams vie for Harken 2020 Youth Match Racing World Championship

by Andrew Delves, RNZYS 25 Feb 23:24 PST
Nick Egnot-Johnson © Andrew Delves

The Harken 2020 Youth Match Racing World Championship, supported by Barfoot & Thompson, gets underway at 10 am (NZT) on Thursday 27th February at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, with the twelve best teams from around the globe here to vie for the world championship.

The highest-ranked competitor in the field is from New Zealand, RNZYS Performance Programme Knots Racing skipper Nick Egnot-Johnson. Egnot-Johnson is ranked second in the men's match racing world rankings, and sailing on his home patch is certainly one of the favourites this week. Egnot-Johnson has been in good form to start the year, with two second-place finishes in Australia and a third at last week's Harken Youth International, also hosted by the RNZYS. Egnot-Johnson finished 2nd at the last edition of the Worlds, and is motivated to go one better this time around.

"The last event in Russia was frustrating because the wind completely died on the last two days and we didn't get a proper shot to win it, so we are pretty keen to give it our all this week. Sailing for a world championship at home, it doesn't get any better than that! We are just going to enjoy the week and relish the occasion as much as we can and see what happens."

James Hodgson (#19) and his Australian crew from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia made a big statement last week when they won the 2020 Harken Youth International, brushing aside locals Egnot-Johnson and Jordan Stevenson in the Semi-Finals and Final respectively. Hodgson is now a firm favourite, especially after tasting success and having a week of experience in Auckland under his belt.

"Last week was really good preparation for the worlds. We just went out there to have fun and focus on enjoying ourselves and learn as much as we could before this week, we were really stoked to get the win but doing well this week is much more important."

Finn Tapper (#26) leads the second Australian team, also from the CYCA. Tapper has sailed at the RNZYS before, so even though he didn't race here last week, he will be pretty tuned into the Elliott 7 boats and the conditions from the get-go. Tapper also has reigning youth match racing world champion Tom Grimes on board with him which could prove valuable.

The second kiwi team is the RNZYS PP Vento Racing team helmed by Jordan Stevenson (#10). Stevenson has shot up the rankings in the last year after success abroad, including winning the US Match Race Grand Slam and Musto Youth International. Stevenson and his team have a lot of experience together now and will be solid contenders when racing gets underway. Speaking after his loss in the final to Hodgson on Sunday, Stevenson was humble in defeat -

"That was a bit of a wake-up call to be honest, but sometimes you need that to learn and push yourself harder next time. It's come at a good time because we will take that home and analyse it and be ready to go for the Worlds next week."

We have two teams from the United States of America competing, Jack Parkin (#25) and David Wood (#48). Parkin was here last week and finished fifth overall, a good result for his first time sailing on the tricky Waitemata Harbour. Wood wasn't here last week, but has been here before and also has New Zealander Celia Willison sailing with him who will no doubt offer plenty of local knowledge about the tides and conditions.

Five teams hail from Europe, including; Aurélein Pierroz (FRA, #17), Emil Kjaer (DEN, #24), Ted Blowers (GBR, #61), Ludovic Mori (ITA, #129) and Marius Westerlind (SWE, #227).

Pierroz was very impressive at last week's Harken Youth International, finishing the round-robin with the best record and going on to finish fourth overall. Pierroz is the third-highest ranked skipper at this event and will be heading into the week high in confidence. Kjaer and Blowers were also competing last week, with Kjaer finishing sixth and Blowers in tenth.

Our final team is from South Africa and includes the only female skipper racing - Sonja Stock.

The Race Officer for this event is the experienced Harold Bennett, with Chief Umpire Remy Donraadt leading an accomplished team of umpires.

This is a World Sailing event and will consist of four days of match racing (Thursday 27th February - Sunday 1st March), including a Round Robin stage, Repechage, Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals, Petit Final and Final, with the winning team being crowned the HARKEN 2020 Youth Match Racing World Champion.

Race documents including Notice of Race and Sailing Instructions can be found HERE

The event will begin with the Opening Ceremony & Dinner tonight at 630pm (NZT) which will be live-streamed on the RNZYS Facebook Page LIVE Results will be available via www.matchracingresults.com.

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