The ISAF Grade 3 Hardy Cup 2008 has come down to yet another trans-Tasman sporting encounter, this time in sailing between two Australian and two New Zealand crews of talented youth sailors competing on Sydney Harbour.
The third day of racing saw strong southerly winds, gusting over 20 knots, with the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's Evan WALKER
(AUS) winning five match races to head the line-up going into tomorrow's semi-finals and finals.
WALKER and West Australian Keith SWINTON
from the South of Perth Yacht Club excelled in the strong winds. SWINTON finishing with four wins, his one loss being to WALKER.
Defending champion Adam MINOPRIO
(NZL) and Laurie JURY
(NZL) from the Royal New Yacht Squadron made the semi-finals after two wins each today.
However, the final four had to be decided by a complex tie-breaker according to match racing rule C11.1 that went back to the results of the first round-robin.
MINOPRIO, JURY and fellow Kiwi, Josh JUNIOR
from Wellington's Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club, each finished with two wins each. Going back through the earlier results, JUNIOR fell short and came fifth in final stands.
Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron's Stuart POLLARD
did not win a race today and finished sixth in standings. POLLARD failed to finish in one race after his boat suffered a broken boom vang.
While today's racing gave little opportunity for match-racing tactics, other than in pre-start manoeuvres, WALKER and SWINTON in particular showed outstanding seamanship and sail handling in the strong breeze.
"SWINTON and his crew was particularly impressive in their ability to go to windward with the boat flat and in then downwind with excellent gybing,"
commented umpire and former World Champion yachtsman Neville WITTEY
WALKER's first three wins came before racing was postponed, due to today's strong southerly winds and subsequent sail damage.
Once racing resumed this afternoon, he and his crew of Will RYAN
, Kyle LANGFORD
and Oliver HARTAS scored two more wins, putting WALKER in the enviable position of being the highest-ranked skipper heading into tomorrow's finals.
"The depth of the sailing experience of helmsperson Evan WALKER and crew Kyle LANGFORD and Will RYAN showed through in the strong breezes today as they pulled away from opponents, especially on the downwind legs,"
said the CYCA's YSA coach/manager Jenni BONNITCHA
"Kyle and Evan were Australian reps in 2007 at the ISAF World Champs in Cascais and Will RYAN has recently returned from finishing second in the 29er Worlds in Melbourne."
In tomorrow's semi-finals, WALKER is expected to race JURY, while SWINTON will be against MINOPRIO.
In addition to the semi-finals between the top four crews, tomorrow will see a knock-out series for places seven to 12 in the Hardy Cup.
Hardy Cup - www.rsys.com.au/sailing/HardyCup2008.php