Fourteen teams of talented youth sailors from around the world arrive at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron for this week's Harken Youth International Match Racing Championships.
Teams from Sweden, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand are getting ready to do battle on the Waitemata Harbour for the illustrious Harken Cup!
It's the first time a Canadian team has travelled to Auckland to compete and it comes from the inclusion of a formal match racing programme at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. The young team has excelled on the water and formed the 'Northwest Youth Racing Team' helmed by 14 year old Richard Minielly just last year. All five attend high schools in Vancouver and compete in various racing classes with the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. Although young, the team has considerable sailing experience for their age, and each member has individually placed in the top three spots in a number of regattas. Since the Northwest Youth Racing Team was formed in 2012 it has already had success in the RVYC Kintec match racing events, placing eighth, and sixth in their first two regattas. We look forward to seeing if all the classroom seminars during their winter have paid off!
This is also the first time that three American teams will compete in this competition. Charlie Lalumiere - Portland Yacht Club, Christophe Killian - Balboa Yacht Club, and Will Holz, current winner of the Rose Cup, a US National Youth Match Racing Championship, representing the Chicago Yacht Club.
The highest ranked young sailor and competing for the first time in the Elliott 7's, is Sam Gilmour representing the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club, Perth. Gilmour at just 19 years of age has an impressive ranking at 101 which includes a fifth placing at the Warren Jones Regatta in Perth, fifth at the 2012 Governor's Cup, USA and a win at last week's Centreport Youth International held in Wellington.
Next highest ranked at 200 is Adam Middleton representing the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club, who was part of Gilmour's winning crew last week. Middleton was also part of the 2012 winning Governor's Cup crew helmed by Tim Coltman and he finished eighth at this event last year and seventh in 2011. Will it be third time lucky for Coltman this week?
It is fantastic to see two all-female teams competing at this year's championships; Hannah Osborne - Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Claudia Pierce, Kawau Island Yacht Club. Both are current members of the RNZYS Lion Foundation Youth Training Programme and also skippers.
20 year old Claudia and her Infinity Racing Team are looking forward to this week's match racing with the hope of a podium finish, "It's a prestigious youth event, with a high calibre of teams. I am aiming to improve my ranking, race some great teams and hopefully make the podium."
Last year's winner Chris Steele was on the entry list but had to withdraw after he received a rather amazing invitation to compete at the Red Bull Youth America's Cup Trials now on in San Francisco. Grabbing Chris' spot is fellow Lion Foundation Youth Training Programme skipper Scott Barnes who also competed at the Centreport Youth International placing fifth overall.
The Harken Youth International Match Racing Championships is sailed in the Squadron's fleet of 10 Elliott 7 metre yachts used by the Youth Training Programme. Coach of the RNZYS Lion Foundation Youth Training Programme, Guy Pilkington, commented, "We are ready to go, the boats are in great condition and a few of the teams have arrived in Auckland early to train. We are really pleased to have 14 teams competing this year; I am really looking forward to a great regatta."
Race Officer for the event Megan Kensington is looking forward to the week, "The forecast is mixed at this stage, with some light and some windier conditions forecast, which should give us a good mix of racing. The tides are being nice to us this year. The format is for a single round robin, quarter finals for the top 8 teams, semi-finals and finals. My team and I are looking forward to it and ready for some great racing."
All teams will have their official practice day on Wednesday and Opening Ceremony in the evening. Racing begins at 10am on Thursday