It was the weather Gods dictating terms on Pittwater today for Day two of the 21st Harken International Youth Match Racing Championship, hosted by the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club. Only three flights and ten races all up were able to be completed today with the nor’ easter tipping the scales at 25 knots and forcing an abandonment to racing shortly after 2pm.
Pittwater was at its limit with the extreme conditions testing the fleet of Force 24s, the race committee and the competitors in a wild day on the water. There was thunder and lightning early on, followed by rain, more storm clouds, a little ray of sunshine, lots of breeze, a little bit of everything making it challenging for all.
The day was book-ended by the AP flag with a short delay to racing this morning as the race committee waited for an electrical storm to pass. The race committee and competitors made their way to the start area shortly before 1100hrs and then set a course in a building 18-20 knot Nor Easter.
The first flight got underway at 1230hrs with match one seeing RPAYC’s Malcolm Parker defeating Newport Harbour’s Jack Thompson in a close finish with both boats flying through the finish with less than a boat length between them. In match two the other RPAYC competitor and only female skipper, Clare Costanzo defeated New Zealander Sam Mackay after a tight start but with a man overboard on Mackay's team early in the match created distance between the two teams and a happy victory for Costanzo. In Match three CYCA Oliver Hartas defeated Blake Poole from Gosford.
Parker leads coming into the top mark - photo by Damian Devine
Overnight leader Chris Steele from Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron picked up from where he left off yesterday and was dominant again today, winning both his races comfortably to go into stage two of the regatta on top of the leaderboard with a perfect ten from ten.
In the most anticipated match of the round between the undefeated Steele and second placed Malcolm Parker, who had only dropped one race to date, it was a race that had everything with a collision in the pre start forcing a penalty on Parker, an exciting start, close tacking duel on the first beat, close mark rounding at the top, a downwind pass and then a chinese and a blown kite on the boat of Parker’s ending any chance of victory in the race.
After the incident in the pre start and some classic match racing tactics, Parker beared away to get over the start a clear boat length in front of Steele. He held his nerve on the beat upwind in a spectacular tacking duel as both crews favoured the left hand side of the course with Parker leading at every cross. Steele was moving in coming into the top mark hot on the heels of Parker and the breeze now strong and steady at 25 knots with white caps carpeting Pittwater.
Both had clean spinnaker sets as they rounded the top mark with Steele trying to steal the lead as they turned but couldn’t get through the hole. About three quarters down the run, Steele seized the opportunity pushing Parker past the starboard layline, gybing and getting over the top of Parker in a well executed manoeuvre.
Steels overtakes Parker on the first run - photo by Damian Devine
Then it all went horribly wrong for Parker in the challenging conditions when a gust gave the boat the wobbles and Chinese gybed the boat, losing control momentarily and forcing the kite to blow. He executed his penalty trying to regain composure as the crew worked hard and fast to get the spinnaker back on deck. By the time they were in control, Steele had shot through and was half way back up the second beat as Parker rounded the bottom mark. Steele showed why he is ranked 22 in the world with his experience shining through and going on to win by almost a leg in the end.
As Steele crossed the line and carnage looming, the Race Committee flew the AP over A flags and racing was abandoned shortly after 2pm. A wise decision as the breeze strengthened and storms moved in as the crews made their way back to the safe haven of the yacht club.
Steele said after the race, “That’s the first time we have been beaten off the start this regatta so we had to play catch up and work hard. We both went left following the shift on the first beat and we tried a couple of things to get past them but it was always going to be hard on that first work. We were right behind them at the top mark and had a nice set as we turned and thought we were going to pass them there but we stayed patient and managed to push them past the starboard layline, gybed and took our opportunity to get over the top of them three quarters of the way down the run and took it from there. But yeah, it was very close until they got into trouble.”
On sitting on a perfect ten points at the end of stage one of the Harken, Steele commented, “We’re going pretty well, sticking to the plan and sitting exactly where we wanted to be. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens tomorrow with the conditions but we will give it our best and we’re looking forward to it.”
Steele coming to the finish in his match versus Parker to end round one with a perfect 10 - photo by Damian Devine
Due to the forecast tomorrow with 2-5 knot NW turning to WSW the Race Committee have amended the sailing instructions to get a fair result from the regatta. There are still four individual races to complete stage one, following that the top six skippers will move to stage two and will sail a single round robin with points carried forward from Round One. The top four skippers from stage two will go through to the semi finals/finals stage. Stage three will see a single round robin for the remaining skippers to determine 7th to 11th placings if time and weather permits. Time will tell what Huey decides to throw at Pittwater over the next two days of the Harken regatta.
Standings after Progressive Round Robin One:
Chris Steele (RNZYS) – 10/10
Malcolm Parker (RPAYC) – 8/10
George Brasell (RNZYS) – 6.5/9
Sam Ellis (GSC) – 6/10
Clare Costanzo (RPAYC) - 5/10
Oliver Hartas (CYCA) – 4/8
Jack Thompson (NHYC) – 4/8
Samuel Mackay (RPNYC) – 3/8
Eddie Moult (RSYS) – 2/9
Zac Pullen (RYCT) – 2/10
Blake Poole (GSC) – 0/10
Follow all the action on the water with live results here
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.
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.