Strong lineup gathering for NZ match racing champs
Competition for a spot at October's Yachting Developments New Zealand Match Racing Championships is heating up, with eight teams confirmed and only eight more spots remaining.
Expressions of interest are still open for teams from New Zealand and around the world and interested parties are encouraged to get their expressions of interest in as soon as possible.
Plenty of top-ranked sailors have already put their names forward, some talented up-and-coming teams as well as a couple of surprises.
Headlining the lineup is Nick Egnot-Johnson and his Knots Racing Team who are currently ranked fourth in the world. Egnot-Johnson is in a rich vein of form of late, recently winning the German Match Cup, the Governor’s Cup in California, and finishing second at a shortened Youth World Match Racing Championship event in Russia.
The RNZYS Performance Programme sailor finished third at this event in 2018 and is keen to push on and improve on that result this year.
"It’s always fun to be sailing at home and this regatta is always an incredibly tough competition," Egnot-Johnson said. "We were happy with our third spot last year, but we’ve had another whole year sailing together as a team at a wide range of events around the world, so I feel we have a lot more experience now and we’re motivated to get the win this year."
The Yachting Developments New Zealand Match Racing Championships are to be held at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron from October 2-6, with all racing to be completed in the Squadron's fleet of Elliott 7s. It is a grade two event, and international teams are encouraged to enter.
Current New Zealand women’s match racing champion Celia Willison and her Edge Women’s Match team are also on the card. The team recently moved into 11th in the women’s world rankings and have improved greatly as a team over the past year, finishing second at the GKSS Match Cup Women’s Trophy in Sweden.
Willison was also part of the RNZYS PP team who finished second at the youth worlds but this is open racing and Willison knows it’s going to be a lot tougher.
"The line-up is already looking very strong," she said. "I would love to see a few more all-female teams take up the challenge, but our team has been training a lot recently and we are ready to take it on."
Fresh off winning the Aircalin Match Cup, New Caledonian Tom Picot has also thrown his hat into the ring to represent the Cercle Nautique Calédonien.
Picot is a strong match racer with international experience and will add to the strength of competition in October. He finished sixth at the 2019 Nespresso Youth International, so has experience racing in Auckland.
Another sailor who has enjoyed time in the winner’s circle is Jordan Stevenson and his RNZYS PP Vento Racing Team. Stevenson this week won the Detroit Match Cup, the second event on the US Grand Slam, and his team have shown they are capable of beating anyone on their day. They are a genuine contender to take out the title in 2019.
In what is a an exciting surprise, especially for those associated with the Squadron, current RNZYS Youth Training Programme head coach Reuben Corbett is coming out of 'retirement' to race at this year’s event.
Corbett is an experienced match racer, and competed in a number of World Match Racing Tour events, however he hasn’t raced in a match racing regatta since 2016 and has never competed in a regatta in the Elliott 7s. Corbett has some history in this event, with his best result second in 2009.
He has recruited an-all RNZYS PP crew which includes Josh Wijohn, Taylor Balogh and Tim Snedden. It is going to provide an extra aspect of interest for spectators, seeing the teacher come up against some of his current pupils, and Corbett’s entry is sure to bring a few more out of the woodwork.
Robbie McCutcheon, pictured, gained automatic entry when he and his Westlake Boys High School Team won the Harken Secondary Schools Championships. McCutcheon will be representing Great Britain at this event and has since joined the RNZYS YTP.
RNZYS PP sailor Niall Malone has also gained entry. Malone has Irish heritage and is going to be representing Ireland this year and at future events, including the 2020 Youth World Match Racing Championships held at the RNZYS in February.
"I’m really looking forward to it, to be honest. I haven’t done any helming for a while but it’s something I will be doing more of representing Ireland in the lead up to the 2020 Youth Match Racing World Championships."
Wellingtonian Albert Stanley and his team from the Worser Bay Boating Club round out the currently-accepted entries.
The qualifying event which was scheduled to take place in early August was cancelled due to bad weather. However, competitors who were to take part in that event have a second chance and have been invited to compete in the Youth Training Programme's in-house match racing regatta on September 14-15 where two spots will be up for grabs. Some of the skippers include James Wilson, Oakley Marsh and Patrick Harris.