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Knots Racing prevail in Harken Youth Match Race Cup

by Andrew Delves - RNZYS 19 Mar 12:57 PDT
Knots racing win their last regatta eligible to compete in youth regattas © Andrew Delves - RYZYS

Nick Egnot-Johnson and his KNOTS Racing crew of Niall Malone, Alastair Gifford and Ollie Gilmour have survived a tricky sudden death final day to prevail and win the 2021 Harken Youth International Match Racing Cup.

Going back to the Round Robin stage, the top seeding came down to a battle between the eventual finalists, with Nick Egnot-Johnson and Jordan Stevenson racing off in the final match. As is always the case with these two the race was a tight one, but it was Egnot-Johnson who claimed a narrow victory. Both finished with an eight-one record, but Egnot-Johnson snatched the top spot on count-back with that vital final race win.

The quarterfinals were then on, with Mastercard Youth Training Programme skipper Robbie McCutcheon beating Wellingtonian Will Wright three-nil. Nick Egnot-Johnson also won his quarter-final three-nil, taking down Mastercard YTP skipper Max McLachlan. The other two semi-finals were between Jordan Stevenson and Celia Willison, as well as Albert Stanley versus Megan Thomson. Each was tied at one-one, but Stevenson and Stanley both won the third matches to take two-nil leads and extend the matches into the final day.

Unfortunately for our two female skippers (Willison & Thomson), the wind really didn’t come to the party on the final day, forcing the Race Management team to abandon them as a best of three, deeming Stevenson and Stanley winners and therefore semi-finalists.

Egnot-Johnson chose to race against Stanley in the semi-finals, leaving Stevenson and McCutcheon to race off in the other. By 1420 a light breeze finally arrived on the racecourse, but with time running out, the decision was made to make both the semi-finals and finals sudden death matches, meaning there would be no room for error on the racecourse and whoever won two races would win this year’s title.

McCutcheon had a good first few legs against Stevenson, holding onto a lead into the final stages of the downwind leg. But the experienced Stevenson didn’t get flustered, pulling off a great gybe to round McCutcheon and sail past him across the line. The other semi-final was fairly one-sided, with Egnot-Johnson managing to find the little bit of wind that was on the course to claim a large win.

The sudden death final was now set, with our two rival RNZYS Performance Programme teams going at it for yet another time. The wind had again died, but after a half-an-hour wait, just enough came onto the course for racing to get underway.

Stevenson got away to a brilliant start in the race, leading for the first two legs with what looked like an unassailable margin. However, on the second upwind leg, he sailed into a bit of a hole, and Egnot-Johnson hadn’t given up, with his KNOTS Racing team finding some decent puff on the right-hand side to sail right back into the race. That little bit of puff was all Egnot-Johnson needed, carrying his speed and sailing in front to lead at the top mark and then all the way down the final leg to finish just ahead of Stevenson by two boat lengths.

This is Egnot-Johnson’s second Harken Youth International Match Racing Cup title, and it will also be his last, with the now not-so-young skipper ageing out of the youth scene – “Coming up against Jordan Stevenson and his Vento Racing team in the final, we’re always up against them in the finals and it’s a pretty big rivalry. It came down to sudden death and it was a really close race at the very end. We were looking a bit on the rocks at the start, to be honest, they had about a half a leg lead on us but the wind really shut down and we were able to sail around the outside which we were pretty relieved about. It’s an awesome feeling to win my last ever youth regatta, it’s really cool to go out with a bang.”

The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron would like to thank all who made this regatta possible, including our sponsors Harken, the great race management team led by Colin Lucas, John Rountree and his expert umpires, and all of the superb youth sailors who took part.

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