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Harken RYA Youth Match Racing Championship 2021

by Richard Aspland 10 Sep 2021 08:48 PDT

Close racing at the Harken RYA Youth Match Racing Championship hosted at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy took the battle for the title down to the wire.

Following a day of extremely tight racing in perfect 10-15 knot conditions and sunshine, skipper Alex Colquitt with Haydn Sewell on main and bowman Will Heathcote, were leading overnight but only by a narrow margin. With the other teams snapping at their heels and still in contention, Colquitt's team then managed to just hold on at the top of the leaderboard as the round robin series concluded on day two.

With the wind having gradually dropped off on day one to settle at around 10 knots, the evenly-matched racing in Elliott 6M keelboats over the weekend of 4-5 September then continued through the finals series. Both semis and the petit final were settled with a 2:1 scoreline.

Skipper Alex Whitfield with Chris Jones and Emma Bennett won the petit final to finish third overall ahead of Josh Davies, Ian Ratnage and Anne-Marie Ratnage. The final saw Colquitt's team and opponents Will Caiger, Charles Cooper and India Trenowden go 1:1 before Colquitt sealed the championship by taking the next two bullets.

Colquitt has competed in previous match racing events as a bowman but this event was his first as a skipper. He said: "We started off pretty strong but made a few boat handling mistakes towards the end of the first day and although we were leading overnight and after the round robin, we were only a win or two clear of the other boats, so it was pretty tight all the way through. The semi-final was then a 2:1 win and the finals went 3:1 so there were definitely tense points."

"I think what really made the difference between the races we won and lost was the pre-start and getting control before the start, and after that we were confident we were pretty quick around the course to stay ahead. Haydn and Will are really experienced with fleet and other kinds of racing and good at getting us going fast around the course, and I come from a bit of a team racing background so I guess that has transferable skills in a way. What I enjoy about match racing is the really tight boat-on-boat racing. You do get that in fleet racing, where you're coming into close quarters with other boats, but in match racing you get that in every single race... they're short snappy races where there's always some kind of intensity going on."

Among those competing was a young team of match racers from Poole YC - helm Oli Hale with Tom Clayton, Tom Cluett and Amber Hale - who despite having a few last places while getting used to the boat and pre-starts, were enthused by their improving skills and are now looking forward to taking part again next year. Amber said: "It's more exciting than fleet racing, there's more going on and there's more boat-on-boat handling so it's more sort of focused. It's a fair race as well because the boats are all exactly the same."

A highlight for fourth-placed Josh Davies, Ian and Anne-Marie Ratnage was likewise finding winning form after initially losing a number of races in a row, as their starting and upwind legs improved over the course of the hugely competitive championship. Asked whether they would recommend match racing to other sailors thinking of giving it a go, Anne-Marie added: "Definitely go for it! This is only the second event I've done and I already want to do more!"

All the results from the weekend: www.matchracingresults.com/2021/rya-youth-championships

Summing up, Event Coach Mary Rook said: "The teams were a real mix of ages from more experienced sailors who had attended previous match racing events, to the younger first timers.

"We saw a great improvement in all of the sailors and with five teams we had enough time to do three round robins. The teams results were really mixed and it provided some great close racing.

"Just missing out from the semi-finals we're the youngest team from Poole Yacht Club. Having thoroughly enjoyed the racing they vowed to come back again next year with some more practice under their belts.

"The semi-finals saw all teams win races and kept the umpires on their toes with penalties a plenty. It was a great weekend of racing and all the sailors should be very proud of how they sailed and how many improvements they made. I look forward to seeing them succeed in the future."

Next up in the 2021 RYA National Match Racing Championship series is the Marlow Ropes Women's Championship, again in Elliotts at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, over the forthcoming weekend of 11-12 September.

There will then be the Summer Match Racing 3 event in RS21s at Poole YC, 2-3 October 2021, followed by Summer Match Racing 4 (Ceilidh Cup) in Sonars at the Royal Northern and Clyde Yacht Club, Helensburgh, over the weekend of 9-10 October.

For further information and entry find out more at www.rya.org.uk/racing/keelboat-racer/match-racing

The series concludes with the invitational National Match Racing Grand Finals in RS21s at Queen Mary SC, 29-31 October.

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