2nd in Auckland - Skippers report

Report written by Daniel Kemp, skipper Youth Development Team, RPAYC.

Last week, our Youth Development team participated in the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Youth International Match Racing Cup, held from 6-10 March in Auckland, finishing 2nd overall!

Our team, consisting of Daniel Kemp (skipper), Louis Tilly (mainsheet), Lachie Wallace (trim), Charlie Verity (bow), and Belle Holdsworth (float/tactics), were joined by RPAYC Youth Development coach Rob Brewer for the week’s racing.

Last week has been a fantastic opportunity for us to hone some of our match racing skills and face off against some of the best young match racers in the Southern Hemisphere. 

Going into the event, our goal was to make the finals series (top 2). As a team, we had just come off back-to-back third places in grade 3 competitions with the Harken International held at RPAYC late last year, and then bronze again at the Hardy Cup at RSYS in February. Accordingly, we focused our training throughout late February and early March on fine-tuning our boat handling skills and focusing on our upwind speed, which we felt was an area to improve. We were very fortunate in this regard to have the assistance of our Youth Development coach (and sail trim guru) Rob Brewer talk through some more complex theory which we were then able to go out and practice.

The event was held from Wednesday last week through to Sunday, and was sailed on the RNZYS’ brand new fleet of 10 Elliott 7 sportsboats, which have been generously donated by Emirates Team New Zealand for the purpose of continuing to cultivate young talent in Auckland. So new were the boats that during the training day, rudder stoppers were still being installed!

The first two days of racing for us went superbly, with the team going undefeated. Our focus on upwind speed had paid dividends as we were able to start even in most races and usually be first to the top mark. On the third day of the regatta, we concluded the double round robin, finishing 1st with a scorecard of 15-1. Subsequently, we elected to pick fourth placed seed, Ethan Fong from RNZYS to race in the semi-finals.

The first two matches of the semi finals were sailed on Saturday afternoon in 20+ knots of a shifty southerly coming directly off the Auckland CBD. Our team loved the breezy conditions, and we were able to end Saturday’s racing 2-0 in a ‘first to 3’ semi final.

On Sunday morning, the conditions had lightened off and we were presented with a 6-10 knot easterly, with plenty of current. In our first match of the day, we had a close race with Ethan, ultimately winning to go 3-0 and proceed to the finals. 

The finals series was against the pre-regatta favourite Josh Hyde and his Waitemata racing team (RNZYS Performance Program). Throughout the series, we sailed very fast upwind (being first to the first windward mark in every race), however, Josh and his team were able to use the tide effectively at the top mark and downwinds to their advantage. They won the first race, before we took the second to level the series 1-1. The third race was a true classic, with both teams exchanging the lead constantly. At the finish, Josh and Co edged us out to take the series 2-1 by what looked to the race committee to be less than half a boat length.

The wind dropped dramatically for the final race of the series, which started in around 5 knots. A mistake by myself in the pre start manoeuvring gave us a penalty. Attempting to offset this penalty on the first downwind, we got into a big luffing duel with Josh, which didn’t go our way. With a double penalty on us, Josh and Co were able to take the series 3-1. Congratulations to Waitemata racing who showed mastery of the conditions throughout the week and gave us some of the closest racing we have ever had!

Looking forward, our team is excited for the resumption of the Youth Development training season, beginning in early May. We have applied for entry to some further international regattas and are excited by the prospect of continuing to hone our skills on the match racing circuit.

Thank you very much to everybody who assisted us last week, in particular, the RPAYC Youth Development program, Rob Brewer, and our host family, the Fongs. Their hospitality was greatly appreciated by our team.”