2022 Harken New Zealand Match Racing Championship Preview

 In Major Regattas, Match Racing, Performance Programme, World Match Racing Tour, Youth Training Programme

The best of New Zealand’s match racing sailors are ready to do battle over 4 days of world-class on water duels for the Harken New Zealand Match Racing Championship, from the 6th to 9th of October on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour.

The Harken NZMRC kickstarts the 2022-23 domestic sailing season and is always a highly coveted prize with plenty of Kiwi sailing royalty lifting the title during their careers – including Dean Barker, 3 time World Match Racing Champion Chris Dickson, Olympic gold medallist Rod Davis, Olympians Josh Junior and Gavin Brady, AC36 commentator Chris Steele and current Canada SailGP sailors Phil Robertson and Graeme Sutherland. 

Many of this year’s teams have had eventful winters, travelling the world and competing in regattas throughout Europe, America, Asia and the Pacific Islands – but can’t wait to renew local rivalries. 

Both of last year’s finalists return after a nail-biting 5 race final, with reigning champion Nick Egnot-Johnson’s KNOTS Racing beating RNZYS Sailing Manager Reuben Corbett in what came down to a matter of inches and a better tack on the finish line by Egnot-Johnson’s crew. 

World Sailing’s number 3 ranked team, and 2019 Governor’s Cup and Match Race Germany winners KNOTS Racing re-emerged onto the world scene at this year’s Congressional Cup field earlier this April. Nick will be looking to win his 3rd NZMRC on his return to home water after his KNOTS team was part of a Saudi Arabian sailing development mission. 

However, Corbett’s team has put in some dominant performances this year to win the Auckland Match Racing Championships and the Aircalin Match Racing Cup in New Caledonia this August, and he has put together a top-tier squad in his campaign to lift his 1st title on his 6th attempt. Corbett’s team will have a target on their backs from as the coach of the other RNZYS teams, but he won’t be taking it easy on his pupils with silverware on the line.

Megan Thomson’s 2.0 Racing team will want to be the first women’s crew to win the Harken NZMRC as part of their leadup to the Barfoot & Thompson Women’s World Match Racing Championship. The RNZYS Performance Programme team has spent the New Zealand offseason competing across France, Italy and the United States in World Match Racing Tour and Women’s World Match Racing Tour events.

“Any opportunity to get out in the Elliott 7’s is key for us from now until November, and it’s a great way to check in and see where we’re at and where to put our focus in the lead up to Worlds,” said Thomson. “We can’t wait for our chance at the Women’s World Championship on home water and giving the National Championship a good crack is a great sign we’re on the right track”. 

Fellow RNZYS Performance Programme team Robbie McCutcheon with GCH Racing also took on a Northern Hemisphere tour this winter, competing on the 4 regatta US Grand Slam series alongside 2.0. The GCH team also sailed at the 55th Governor’s Cup regatta in Newport Beach, California as well as representing New Zealand at the World Youth Match Racing Championships in Pornichet, France. 

“The Harken NZMRC is a great way to start the New Zealand sailing season off – we’re hoping to bring plenty of lessons learnt while overseas and put together a great few days of match racing to start our busy schedule this summer,” said McCutcheon. 

Vento Racing’s George Angus, who was part of the RNZYS team that won the prestigious Governor’s Cup Youth Match Racing Championship and a member of the all-RNZYS Irish entry for the Youth World Match Racing Championships, will be looking to carry forward the form that saw them beat McCutcheon and 10 other youth teams in California. The Vento team have aged out of the youth ranks now and look to continue their outstanding match racing record into this summer. 

2021 Youth Match Racing National Champions Josh Hyde and the Yosemite Sam Racing squad are only in their 3rd year of Match Racing, but the RNZYS Mastercard Youth Training Programme team are showing real promise and look to target this summer as their breakout year after claiming victories over both the New Zealand and Australia Youth World Match Racing Championship squads last summer.

RNZYS Mastercard Youth Training Programme teams of Tauranga’s Braedyn Denney and the all-female team of Sophia Fyfe have been improving consistently under the teaching of Corbett and will be looking to make the most of any mistakes as they fight for selection into upcoming youth regattas.

2021 and 2022 Harken New Zealand Secondary Schools Keelboat Championship winners Mason Mulcahy and Lucas Day skipper a team each, and hope they’ll be able to make the step up and do Westlake Boys High School proud in their first taste of an open match racing fleet. 

2017 O’pen Skiff World Champion Mattias Coutts, son of Sir Russell Coutts, could be the surprise package of the weekend after a great 3rd place performance at the Secondary Schools Keelboat Championships as he transitions out of more familiar dinghy classes into keelboats. 

This year’s Harken New Zealand Match Racing Championship consists of a round robin format with the top 4 teams directly qualifying and places 5th to 12th fighting it out for a spot in the quarterfinals, the top 4 will then move onto the semi-finals and then the finals on Sunday the 8th. 

The NZMRC kicks off a very busy schedule of regattas for New Zealand’s best match racing teams, and for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, as we look forward to an interrupted summer of competitive sailing.

Nick Egnot-Johnson and Reuben Corbett in race 5 for their epic 2021 Harken NZMRC final – RNZYS/William Woodworth
Megan Thomson and 2.0 Racing competing at the US Grand Slam Thompson Cup in New York – World Match Racing Tour
Reuben Corbett’s team on their way to winning the Aircalin Match Racing Cup – Cercle Nautique Caledonian
Robbie McCutcheon and GCH Racing competing at the 55th Governor’s Cup – Mary Longpre Photos
Vento Racing celebrating lifting the 2022 Governors Cup – Mary Longpre Photos
2022 Harken New Zealand Secondary Schools Keelboat Champions Lucas Day – RNZYS/William Woodworth
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