Interview with our Grand Slam bound Performance Programme Team KNOTS RACING

RNZYS Performance Programme team KNOTS RACING made up of Nick Egnot-Johnson, Zak Merton and Sam Barnett sat down for a chat at the Squadron before heading to the United States for a Grand Slam of a time on the water.

You guys went to Italy for the Youth World Match Racing Championships after winning the trials here, what was that like and how did you go?

Sam: We had an awesome time at Lake Ledro in the North of Italy. We went there firstly for the OM international which was a grade 2 event that included six teams inside the top 20 world rankings, so the level was pretty high. We were sailing J22’s which are a type of keelboat we don’t have here in New Zealand. We got used to them pretty quickly, they’re pretty fun boats. We were swinging them around quite a lot, they have a really short turning circle and they’re quite playful. We started the regatta alright and improved as we went along, we just missed out on the semi-finals and finished 5th which wasn’t a bad result for our ranking in the end.

Then we got into the Worlds two days later, we had a really good first round robin because we were working well together as a team. By the second [round robin] we made a few mistakes and a couple of things didn’t go our way but we did enough to make the semis. In the semis we raced an Italian guy and the conditions were quite difficult and shifty. Unfortunately we lost 2-0 so we then took on American Chris Weiss in the petite final, which was close but very tough. We ended up 4th but we felt this was a pretty good result for our first international regatta as a team. Our teamwork and commutation was good so we took a lot of positives out of Italy.

How may regattas have you guys done as a team?

Nick: Our first regatta together as a three was the trials for the worlds here earlier this year {in which Knots Racing beat James Wilsons team in the final} and before that we had done the Nespresso Youth International, but we had an extra person sailing with us then.

So since you guys came back from Italy you’ve been training hard in the Elliott’s and MRX’s?

Nick: Yeah we’ve been pretty much sailing every single day for the past week and a half, whether it’s in the MRX’s or Elliott 7’s, we’re training really hard right up until we leave for the Grand Slam.

You also went down to Wellington recently and won a regatta down there which must have been another good confidence booster?

Zak: One of the big things we got out of that was jumping into the Elliot 6 sport editions. Jumping into a new boat and learning how to sail it pretty quickly will be helpful jumping into the new boats over in the States. It was really good fun down there, they were good to us and we were stoked to take the win.

So what events have you got coming up in America?

Nick: So we are heading up there for the Grand Slam which is made up of four Grade Two events. The first one is the Chicago Match Cup. Then we’re going to drive from Chicago to Detroit for the Detroit Cup, then we fly to New York for the Oakcliff International which is followed by the Thompson Cup.  It’s a big tour!

Zak: The cool thing is that the overall winner of the whole series, taking the best 3 regatta results out of the 4, gets an invitation to the Congressional Cup in California so we’re pushing hard for that one!

What calibre of sailors will you be up against up there? Are there other teams taking part in the Grand Slam that you know or have sailed against before?

Nick: Yeah we’ve identified 3 teams that are doing all 4 regattas. Will Boulden from Perth who will actually have an RNZYS crew on board made up of the Pacific Racing guys Taylor Balogh and Josh Wijohn. Finn Tapper who is a great up and coming Australian skipper who will also have world number 1 Harry Price crewing for him, so he will be very strong. James Wilson and his RNZYS PP team are also coming along so they will be good too.

Sam: For the bigger boats in New York we’re going to be taking on world number 4 Eric Monin from Switzerland who is the defending champion in the match 40’s, so he is going to be a pretty tough customer.

So what type of boats do you sail in at each regatta?

Sam: Chicago we race in the Sonars, Ultimate 28’s in Detroit and Swedish Match 40’s in New York. For the two NY regattas we’ve also got our other Knots Racing sailor Bradley McLaughlin (currently racing on Gladiator at the 52 Super Series in Europe) joining us as well as RNZYS Performance Programme Coach Graeme Sutherland, who will be very valuable to have on board.

Three different types of boats! Lucky you guys have been sailing in a range of different types recently, hopefully that will help you to adapt quickly?

Zak: Absolutely that’s what we’re hoping!

Nick: That’s actually one of the main reasons we went to Wellington because we found at our very first few races at the OM in Italy in the pre-starts, just being in a completely different boat was a completely different game and we weren’t quite prepared for it. So when we went to Wellington it was really good to get more practice match racing in a new boat.

So in five weeks when you come back, what kind of result will you be happy with?

Nick: If we can win the Grand Slam then we will be happy, that’s our main goal to win it and get the entry to the Congressional Cup.

Zak: The ranking points are also going to help us move up in the world and allow us to get to more regattas.

What else have you got planned this year?

Nick: Pretty much as soon as we get back from the Grand Slam we have the Yachting Developments New Zealand Match Racing Championships here at the Squadron which will be a biggie. Then straight after that we will be looking at going to the Musto and Harken [Youth Match Racing Championships] in Australia, so we are just trying to get entries into those at the moment and these what else the future holds!

Since our interview was held the team have traveled to America and competed at the first event of the Grand Slam, the Chicago Match Cup where they finished 10th. 

Here’s an update from the team:Knots Racing have been busy recently preparing for the Grand Slam and competing in the first event of four in Chicago. We have come in feeling prepared as our training block was a huge success. Although this helped with the starts which we handled well, we took too long to adjust to the heavy Sonar boats and made several mistakes that good boat handling would have typically gotten us out of. In saying this, these situations have given us plenty of learnings and we’re firing for the rest of the slam! Watch this space”

We wish the boys the best of luck for the final 3 regattas of the Grand Slam!  

Remaining Events Include: Detroit Cup, 24th–26th August, Bayview Yacht Club, Detroit, USA | Oakcliff International, 6th–9th September, Oakcliff Sailing Center, New York, USA | Thompson Cup, 12th–15th September, Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club, New York, USA

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Andrew Delves – RNZYS PR & Communications Manager


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