The HARKEN International Youth Match Racing Championship, hosted by the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club will celebrate its 21st year when racing gets underway tomorrow on Pittwater and continue until Sunday 24 November.
"The HARKEN" as it is known in youth sailing circles worldwide, stands out as one of the premier events for youth on the international match racing calendar and has during its 21 year history served as a launch pad for a number of local yachting stars including dual winning skippers James Spithill, Michael Dunstan and Seve Jarvin.
Protest flag flying coming to the finish in the 2012 Harken petit final- photo by Damian Devine
This year 11 teams from Australia, New Zealand and USA will compete for the coveted Rockin’ Robin Perpetual Trophy*. The kiwis have had their hands on the trophy for the past four years including back to back wins in 2011 and 2012 by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron’s David Hazard. The Aussie teams will need to work hard to win it back.
2012 runner up Chris Steele also from RNZYS is back to try and get to the top of the podium after his debut as skipper last year. Steele said he is looking forward to the challenge, “This is a great event and we’re glad to be back to compete in the Harken. It was a little disappointing last year to get so close, so fingers crossed we’re hoping to go one better this time.
“Just hoping for some good breeze to make way for some good racing. No doubt there will be some challenging conditions and tough match racing over the next few days, so pretty excited. It would be nice if we could go through this week without dropping a match, that’s the aim anyway.”
Steele will start outright favourite for the event with the highest ISAF ranking of 22 amongst the skippers following a consistent year on the podium at various youth match racing events including winning the Musto International Youth Match Racing last November.
Chris Steele, last year’s runner up will start outright favourite – photo by Damian Devine
Other teams competing come from the host club The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht club, Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, Royal Port Nicholson Yacht club (NZ), Gosford Sailing club and Royal Club of Tasmania. A famous Australian namesake in Jack Thompson is representing the Newport Harbour Yacht club (USA) and has flown out to Australia solo to meet up with a fresh, new crew who are all graduates of the RPAYC’s youth development program including Kasja Doyle, Josh Dawson, Matt Stenta and Milly Bennett. Thompson will gain some invaluable match racing experience after earlier this year competing in the Governor’s Cup hosted by the Balboa Yacht club.
The 2013 Harken International event is certified Grade 3 for ISAF match race rankings. Each team can have up to five crew with a maximum crew weight limit of 350Kg, all of who must be under 21 years of age.
After a team weigh-in, practice session and opening ceremony on Wednesday, match racing will commence on Pittwater on Thursday at 1000hrs and conclude with the finals on Sunday 24 November.
The courses will be standard match racing windward/leeward set up and racing will take place in the big pond just north of Scotland Island.
The regatta will be sailed in the club's fleet of Force 24' yachts for the final team as the club is set to replace these with a fleet of Elliot 7s in early 2014.
The teams will sail a double round robin with each crew racing each other twice. The top two teams will then battle it out in a best of five final and the next two in the best of three petit final. The remaining seven teams battle it out in a single round robin to decide 5th to 11th places.
Close match racing in the 2012 final with Steele and Hazard- photo by Damian Devine
Race Officer for the event will once again be Ted Anderson whose experience goes back to the Olympic match racing in 2000 and Chief Umpire Phil Mostyn who leads a formidable cast of umpires with national and international experience.
Teams will be billeted with RPAYC Club members, a custom that has forged many longstanding friendships in past years. The organisation of an event of this calibre would not be possible without the aid of a dedicated team of volunteers and RPAYC members.
One of the premier events for youth on the match racing circuit, the 2013 HARKEN International Youth Match Racing Championship marks the 16th consecutive year with HARKEN Australia as naming rights sponsor and is one of the longest standing regatta partnerships in the world.
Their ongoing commitment to the development of youth match racing is a credit to the Northern Beaches leading manufacturer and marketer of quality sailboat hardware and accessories.
Conditions for the first day of competition are forecast to be a light East North Easter building to 12-13 knots later in the day.
Follow all the action on the water from Thursday with live results here
* 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.