History of the HARKEN International Youth Match Racing Championship

History of the HARKEN Regatta

Established in 1992, the Harken International Youth Match Racing Championship has grown into a world-renowned international youth event. The original aim of the event was to provide Club members under the age of twenty the opportunity to experience an international competition against some of the best youth skippers from around the world including the United States, Japan, New Zealand, Italy, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The event was first sailed in the Yngling class before the club purchased a fleet of six Elliott 5.9’s in 1994. The introduction of the Elliott 5.9’s received unreserved praise from the skippers and crews and it became obvious that the International Youth Match Racing Championships would be recognised as the one of the premier events on the World Youth Match Racing circuit. In the interest of being at the forefront of youth sailing and the match racing discipline, the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club developed a new fleet of purpose built Youth Match Racing boats. The fleet of ‘Elliott 7’s’, performance keelboats were introduced last year and it was quickly realised that the boats were the perfect match for the event.

The event has proven to be a fine training ground for outstanding young sailors who have gone on to sail in the America’s Cup, World Match Racing Tour, Volvo Ocean Race, World Championships and Olympics. It goes without saying the climate, the pristine waterways,The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Clubs vision to be at the forefront of Youth Development and the match racing discipline, attracts many of the most talented youth crews from around the world. The popularity of the event is reflected in the demand for places in the team line-ups and in the ever broadening geographic spread of competing nations. 

The Racing

The International Youth Match Racing Championship is a match race regatta, comparable to the America’s Cup. The sailors race head-to-head in direct competition. Unlike the America’s Cup, the Harken International provides sailors with equal boats so it is more a test of sailing ability than design, materials and development.

The “HARKEN”, as it is now known by aspiring young sailors from around the world, will see RPAYC host the event for the 28th year (2022) since inception.

The Harken International is certified Grade 3 for World Sailing match race rankings. The event will be sailed in the RPAYC’s Elliott 7m fleet of performance keelboats with a crew of four/five. Racing will be conducted on the beautiful waterways of Pittwater on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

Ten international teams will compete at this year’s event with crews of four/five, all of who must be under 23 years of age.

The Racing

Robyn Wiltshire presented the Club with a perpetual trophy named the ‘Rockin’-Robin Trophy’.

Robyn presented the trophy in memory of her husband Grant and son Robert, Andrew Young & Jeff Smith, all Club members who tragically lost their lives at sea aboard the yacht ‘Rockin’ Robin’ whilst on passage to Fiji in 1990.

Many Club members provided financial assistance and volunteered their time to help with the Search & Rescue, after the group was spotted next to their partially submerged yacht approximately 200 nautical miles off the Australian Coast.

Even after an extensive Search & Rescue lasting more than one month, the sailors or the vessel were never sighted again.

The Venue

Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club is situated on the beautiful stretch of water named ‘Pittwater’, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. ‘The Alfreds’ as it’s known by locals and members, has a long and colourful history and is one of Australia’s most successful and prestigious yacht clubs. The Club is approximately 40 minutes from the Sydney CBD and 50 minutes from the International airport.

The club was formed on October 15, 1867 and borne Royal affirmation in 1911. In its 150-year history, the RPAYC has continued to grow and prosper to its present splendid position, offering guests one of the finest facilities in Australia. The club has more than 1800 members and houses the largest modern floating marina in New South Wales.

The Club boasts one of the finest yachting histories in Australia with many Olympic medallists, Volvo Ocean Race sailors, America’s Cup sailors and World & National Champions amongst its members. The Club is also the home of the RORC’s prestigious Admiral’s Cup.

The Club’s hospitality is recognised throughout the community. During the event, RPAYC families will billet and house competitors from around the world providing them with great Australian hospitality. This generosity helps competitors and clubs keep their overall expenses down. The week’s activities include breakfast in Halyards café and a formal awards ceremony and dinner, giving competitors the opportunity to rekindle old friendships and develop ever-lasting new ones.

The Boats

The Elliott 7’s are designed by Greg Elliott and built by McConaghy Boats, with Southern Spars building the carbon fibre Mast, Boom, Bow Sprit and spinnaker pole

The hull and deck shells are constructed using E Glass fibres over PVC foam and coremat. The internal structure is female moulded, solid fibreglass. All components are engineered to exacting standards to ensure strict control of weight and provide a strong, stiff, durable and light yacht. Ease of operation and low maintenance are prime considerations in the construction of all components. All equipment is selected from recognised suppliers with good worldwide service coverage.

The strategic placement of all controls around the cockpit allows for ease of use by skipper, mainsheet/traveller trimmer, jib trimmer and bowman. Halyards, vang, tack line and control line for the retractable bow pole are controlled from the base of the carbon-fibre mast. Trimming position for mainsheet and traveller is just in front of helmsman, and jib sheet winches are well forward. Hiking straps run the length of the cockpit. There is a removable bowsprit so that the boats can be sailed with the option of spinnaker or gennaker. There is a pit forward of the mast for the bowman and for sail stowage. The keel fin, which is retractable, is constructed of carbon fibre with a lead bulb incorporated. The rudder, which is removable, has a carbon fibre stock, foam and glass blade.

Mast and spars are built by Southern Spars. The mast and boom are of a modern design, constructed of carbon and aluminium materials, using state of the art engineering. The mast is designed to be lightweight but still retain standard operation safety factors as normally expected in this type of rig. Mast assembly is consistent with common practices, to enable easy maintenance and service. The rig has been designed to allow for effortless assembly, stepping and tuning.