Corbett Claims 2022 Harken New Zealand Match Racing Championship

 In Major Regattas, Match Racing

In a fantastic display of New Zealand’s match racing depth at the 2022 Harken New Zealand Match Racing Championship Reuben Corbett was able to claim his first national match racing title alongside his crew of Guy Pilkington, Zak Merton, and Andre Van Dam in a reverse of 2021’s final that also went the full 5 races. 

Corbett had to fend off a hard charging and defending champion KNOTS Racing crew helmed by Nick Egnot-Johnson who brought a 2-0 deficit back from the brink. However, despite a mistake in race 3 sending him around the wrong offset mark and a momentum swinging KNOTS victory in race 4, this year Corbett reversed the 2021 last minute loss on the finish line to claim the title by 3 boat lengths. 

“It’s been a long time coming but I’m stoked to have finally got over the line – these battles with Nick and the KNOTS boys are always so close but really happy with the consistency of performances all weekend from our team, and especially all of the RNZYS Youth Training Programme teams” said RNZYS Sailing Manager Corbett. 

This year’s NZMRC saw also fantastic work from our race committee and umpiring volunteers who were able to fit the full schedule of racing in despite losing the first day and a half of sailing with too much breeze on Thursday and not enough on Friday morning. Once racing was able to commence at midday on Friday, the shifting conditions, and heavy tidal changes in the Waitemata meant the favored side of the racecourse changed from race to race in what proved to be a great test of the sailor’s tactical reading of their surroundings.

However, the story of this year’s regatta was the marked improvement shown by the rest of the NZMRC field with close duels all weekend between all entrants. The round robin racing threw up consistently competitive matchups with 2 logjams of teams in the rankings, with 6 teams battling for other 3 direct quarter final spots and 5 teams all within striking distance competing for the easier qualifying path. 

“The quality of this fleet has come along leaps and bounds since the 2021 Harken NZMRC earlier this year, full credit to all the sailors for some challenging races throughout all 3 days” said 2021 champion and defeated finalist Sam Barnett of KNOTS Racing. “Seeing the competitiveness this weekend has really given us the jolt we needed to get back into match racing, so we can’t wait to get back out there at the next regatta possible”. 

Corbett’s team fended off close challenges and capitalized on opponent’s mistakes throughout the round robin racing to qualify unbeaten – including a world-class piece of match racing trapping Nick Egnot-Johnson behind the Committee Boat at the prestart and running away with the resulting, much anticipated race. Corbett was outstanding in the prestart throughout the regatta, with excellent timing and boat speed matched by winning penalties to give his team an early buffer in many races. 

Nick Egnot-Johnson and his KNOTS team were surprised in the round robin by the RNZYS Mastercard Youth Training Programme teams of the Josh Hyde skippered Yosemite Sam Racing and Mason Mulcahy’s Wooden Spoon Racing. The shifting conditions and heavy tidal changes in the Waitemata meant the favored side of the racecourse changed from race to race in what proved to be a great test of the sailor’s reading of their surroundings. 

Mulcahy’s team showed serious improvement to qualify 4th after their last-placed 2022 Auckland Match Racing Championship result in August where they found their name. Wooden Spoon beat Hyde and Egnot-Johnson and gave Corbett his most fierce challenge in the round robin racing. However, lost matchups against Tauranga’s Braedyn Denney, Megan Thomson’s 2.0 Racing squad and George Angus’s Vento Racing team cost Mulcahy. Hyde showed more consistency throughout round robin racing and qualified 2nd over Egnot-Johnson due to his victory in their matchup with 8-3 records, while Mulcahy and Denney finished on 7-4. 

The first regatta back on home water after their World Match Racing Tour USA Grand Slam performances was a rough landing for the RNZYS Performance Programme teams of 2.0 Racing helmed by Megan Thomson and GCH Racing skippered by Robbie McCutcheon. These crews performed far better than their 6-5 records would lead on and would have made huge gains with a few moments going their way. Many of their losses in the round robin were within a few boat lengths and they can still be happy with their round robin performances. 

The match ups between Mattias Coutts’s Manly Sailing Club team, Wellingtonian’s Callum Radford, Vento Racing’s George Angus, the RNZYS Mastercard Youth Training Programme team of Sophia Fyfe, and the 2021 Harken New Zealand Secondary Schools Keelboat Champions led by Lucas Day proved consistently exciting, with Royal Port Nicholson’s Radford able to claim 8th in the round robin ahead of Angus on 3-8 and Coutts, Fyfe, and Day each on 2-9. 

While they didn’t quite have the boat speed and technique as the top 7 teams, the NZMRC round robin and repechage knockout racing gave them invaluable experience in competitive matchups and plenty of lessons on the water. These teams left a tough job for the committee to build the knockout rankings, with the entire field with the exception of Corbett having an interweaved web of beating one another. 

After round robin racing finished, the 5th-12th ranked teams raced off in repechage matchups to finish Saturday’s racing. The lower-ranked 11th seed Mattias Coutts came back to upset 8th Wellington’s Callum Radford 2-1, while McCutcheon, Thomson and Denney beat Angus, Day, and Fyfe respectively in competitive 2-0 matchups to face off with the top four in Sunday’s Quarterfinal’s. 

The level of competitiveness and accuracy ramped up on Sunday with very few easy victories on what was a very shifty day for sailing the Waitemata Harbour marked with plenty of offsets and mark movements due to a ripping tide and nor-easterly breeze. 

Mulcahy and Wooden Spoon Racing continued their great form against top teams from the round robin matchup and were able to frustrate McCutcheon’s GCH Racing into a few crucial mistakes to qualify with 2 wins and couldn’t have been happier with their performance. 

The 2.0 Racing team, who were using the NZMRC as part of their leadup to November’s Barfoot & Thompson Women’s World Match Racing Championship, pushed Josh Hyde to the finish line in both races but ended up on the wrong side of what was a tough 2-0 result for the Performance Programme team. This matchup saw plenty of penalty appeals that were green flagged in the pre-starts, with races between these teams becoming a highlight of New Zealand match racing regattas. 

Corbett dispatched of Mattias Coutts’s young team 2-0 who has shown real promise here and at the 2021 Harken New Zealand Secondary Schools Keelboat Championships. The 2017 O’pen Skiff World Champion turned keelboat skipper showed plenty of tactical expertise passed down from on-water coach and father Sir Russell.

Egnot-Johnson and KNOTS shook off the round robin rust with a classy performance to beat Tauranga’s Denney – with the KNOTS team noting how much better they were sailing compared to their past matchups at the 2021 NZMRC raced in January 2022. 

Spectators and Race Committee officials alike eagerly awaited the semi-final matchups, where Corbett chose to take on Mason Mulcahy leaving Egnot-Johnson looking for revenge against Hyde from round robin’s race. Both matchups had races finish within a boat length, with the race committee being forced into tight calls to decide winners. 

Corbett was shadowed by Mulcahy throughout their matchup with Corbett ultimately qualifying 3-0 despite Mulcahy pushing it incredibly close on all races – including one where onlookers thought Mulcahy may have beaten Corbett over the line by a hair. Mulcahy and Wooden Spoon Racing have been excellent since the Auckland Match Racing Championship, with 2 consecutive semi-final appearances at New Caledonia’s AirCalin Match Racing Cup and the New Zealand Championships. 

Yosemite Sam Racing was able to claim one race off the KNOTS Racing team, however Egnot-Johnson and his experienced match racing team began stringing together fantastic performances throughout Finals Day and were able to work their way in front to hold off an impressive Hyde performance. 

The petit final saw 2 crews who know each other very well in a RNZYS Mastercard Youth Training Programme matchup, with Yosemite Sam Racing keeping enough boat speed on the downwind legs to hold off a fast-finishing Wooden Spoon. The two squads are good friends, so Mulcahy’s crew helped to throw Hyde in the Waitemata as he was followed in by his team to celebrate bronze. 

Corbett looked to have wrapped up his first New Zealand Match Racing Championship title in 2 races with dominant pre-start performances leaving Egnot-Johnson desperate for a way into the tie but being held off by excellent defensive sailing from Corbett’s crew. A mistaken offset mark colour by Corbett’s team gave Egnot-Johnson the break he needed in race 3, and he carried that swing in momentum to take the 4th race in a tight downwind sprint. However, Corbett set himself and put on a knockout match racing clinic in a race that was never more than 2 boat lengths away. The crew was “stoked and relieved” to have sealed the title, with Corbett adding it to August’s AirCalin title in Noumea. 

The RNZYS would like to thank all the sailors, race committee, umpires, supporters, and online followers for this year’s Harken New Zealand Match Racing Championship – a full Squadron Ballroom was testament to the support shown over the last 3 days for this regatta. 

The NZMRC was the first match racing regatta in what is shaping up to be an incredibly busy and exciting Southern Hemisphere match racing season. November’s Barfoot & Thompson New Zealand Women’s Match Racing Championship and Barfoot & Thompson Women’s World Match Racing Championship attracting the best women’s teams from around the world to Auckland, as well as Open and Youth regattas across New Zealand and Australia upcoming for Kiwi sailors.

Full results are available at
https://www.matchracingresults.com/2022/nzl-match-racing-nationals/

— ENDS — 

For media enquiries 
William Woodworth, 
RNZYS Communications Co-Ordinator. 
bwoodworth@rnzys.org.nz

(L/R) Zak Merton, Andre Van Dam, Guy Pilkington and Reuben Corbett celebrate aboard after sealing the 2022 Harken NZMRC title
Yosemite Sam Racing cooling off after securing 3rd at the 2022 Harken NZMRC (L/R) Cody Coughlan, Jack Manning, Zach Fong, Josh Hyde and Ryder Ellis
Egnot-Johnson leading Corbett in close quarters during their 2022 NZMRC final.
Mason Mulcahy and Josh Hyde steer their yacht’s towards the Committee Boat with the City of Sails watching over
Robbie McCutcheon and GCH Racing on top of Mason Mulcahy’s Wooden Spoon Racing
Hi-5’s for the 2.0 Racing team
2.0 Racing plotting the next move with Yosemite Sam Racing bearing down on them
George Angus coming in close to the RPNYC’s Callum Radford
GCH Racing play their roles on the downwind leg
All smiles aboard Corbett’s yacht
Eyes only for their competitors from Braedyn Denney and his crew
Sophia Fyfe being hunted down by Denney
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