Tapper Conquers the Conditions and New Zealand’s best at Harken Youth International

 In Major Regattas, Match Racing, News

Following on from his 2022 Hardy Cup victory last weekend, Finn Tapper and his Cruising Yacht Club of Australia team of Will Sargent, Cole Tapper, Ryan Ewings and Jess Tavener have won their 2nd event in 2 weekends with their victory in very testing Auckland conditions at the 2022 Harken Youth International Match Racing Cup. 

For the first time in 2 years, the Harken Youth International allowed New Zealand’s youth sailors to test themselves against international competition with 5 Australian squads crossing the Tasman. With 14 teams competing in one of the largest match racing regatta’s we have seen on New Zealand shores in 2 years, the regatta had plenty of competitive matchups and tight match racing throughout the 4 days on the Waitemata Harbour.

“It’s awesome to have won the Harken Youth International, it’s a really important event for us and winning it is super exciting for us going forward” said a stoked Tapper.

Finn Tapper and a relieved Cruising Yacht Club of Australia team after winning the Harken Youth International – William Woodworth/RNZYS

“Finals day was tough racing, and the tide had a huge effect on the racecourse as it always does in Auckland. Having the quarters, semis, and finals all in one was a big day on the water but to come away with the win is exciting.”

Tapper came up against the RNZYS’s Robbie McCutcheon in the regatta final, who had both ended the round robin racing with records of 12-1. The two teams will be seeing a lot of each other throughout the 2022 youth circuits, with the teams both travelling to the 2022 Youth Match Racing World Championships later this year in France.

“It’s been a tough week for all the teams,” said McCutcheon. “We had a really nice performance in the round robin and the finals day today – conditions were very breezy, and it was quite a one-way track with the tide, but all in all a tough day and we couldn’t quite get the job done.”

“It’s been fantastic having the international teams coming over from Australia, and to line up with them on home water and get their opinions on what’s going on out there.”

Lucas Day and Maeve White battling into the wind, rain and tide on Day 1 – William Woodworth/RNZYS

Day 1 saw Auckland live up to its ‘4 seasons in 1 day’ reputation, and the teams had to deal with consistent banks of changing weather while the Waitemata tide played havoc with the upwind legs. The AP flag saw a quite a lot of use with marks being pulled by the tide and the boat change-overs having to be done in the cover of the Westhaven Marina sea-wall. However as the day progressed, the stormy weather passed over and the final few flights of the day were raced under sunshine and blue skies.

Despite being new to the Auckland conditions, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia team Jack Littlechild handled the changeable weather better than many of the local teams and enjoyed an unbeaten Thursday through 8 flights alongside Tapper and McCutcheon.

Day 2 on Friday saw torrential rain and 40 knot gusts that closed the Auckland Harbour Bridge to traffic during the day which meant the race committee abandoned racing for the day. This meant Saturday became crucial for all of the teams to ensure their places were booked for Sunday’s finals racing, as only one flight could be competed due to the sailor’s safety being paramount.

Day 2 saw little sailing but plenty of carnage across the field – William Woodworth/RNZYS

“The Hardy last week was light wind which made it difficult” said Tapper after the regatta, “but this week had wind, rain and really tough conditions working us hard physically so that was a great change”.

The Saturday racing started early with the remaining round robin flights to complete, and although the skies threatened a repeat for Friday’s washout the rain mostly held off. The wind and rough seas still led to plenty of exciting racing and a few close calls for crews. The kites especially were a test for those on the bow throughout the day, with unpredictable gusts flowing through the Auckland Harbour Bridge causing havoc on downwind legs. Darcy Kemp’s Royal Prince Albert team had 2 crew members fall off their boat within one downwind leg, however due to decisive action from other crew members both were hauled back aboard quickly.

The final race of Saturday decided the top ranked crew as Tapper and McCutcheon faced off. McCutcheon was the only remaining unbeaten team at the regatta while Tapper was one race behind after losing to his bogey team, 2022 New Zealand Youth Match Racing Champion Josh Hyde – who had also beaten Tapper throughout round robin racing at the Hardy Cup. However, Tapper was able to beat McCutcheon to the line on the final leg with a better use of the deeper water and faster current on the north side of the Harbour, and leapfrogged his way into being the top qualifier.

The teams that didn’t make the top 8 all had incredibly competitive races with each other throughout the weekend, which ultimately led to Darcy Kemp unfortunately being knocked out on a 3-way countback due to his losses to the other 2 teams with 5-8 records. The incredibly well-contested round robin saw none of the races being surefire wins for any teams, which is hugely credited to the competitive spirit and fantastic depth in sailing skill in the crews of Rory Sims, Xavier McLachlan, Noah Malpot, Braedyn Denney and Maeve White 

Braedyn Denney crashing through the swell on a downwind send – William Woodworth/RNZYS
Robbie McCutcheon headed into the wind in the middle of one of many wintery squalls throughout the weekend – William Woodworth/RNZYS

Sunday saw the best conditions of the weekend, with the winds and swell calming down overnight to a consistent if cold sou-westerly. Tapper decided to take on and dispatched of Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club’s Jono Barnett in the quarter-finals in 2 races, while McCutcheon knocked out 2022 Harken Secondary Schools Keelboat Champion Lucas Day in a Westlake Boys High School derby after an impressive regatta from the high school crew primarily made up of dinghy sailors.

The RNZYS’s Max McLachlan caught Jack Littlechild by surprise in their first race in the quarter-finals, however ended up falling in 3 races to the Australian crew in a valiant effort. The biggest upset of the quarter-finals was Royal Sydney’s Jed Cruickshank beating Josh Hyde in 2 races, getting revenge for his earlier losses in round robin racing and at the 5th/6th sail-off in the Hardy Cup.

Max McLachlan leading Jack Littlechild off the start line – William Woodworth/RNZYS

The semi-final matchup between McCutcheon and Littlechild had some real hype behind it and lived up to the expectations, with the teams having to go to the full 5 races to be split. The boats were never more than 3 boat lengths apart and the starts proved to be crucial with McCutcheon squeaking home on a downwind sprint. Tapper saw cross-town rivalries resume on foreign water with his semi-final against Cruickshank, after the two teams saw each other at the same stage of the Hardy Cup. Cruickshank noticeably improved in the tough conditions all weekend and stormed up the rankings on Saturday, but wasn’t able to knock off Tapper and was sent to the petit final by the CYCA crew for the 2nd weekend running.

The 5-match slog in the semi-final seemed to take the wind out of Littlechild’s and McCutcheon’s sails as Cruickshank was able to take 3rd in two races, and Tapper’s crew showed more energy in the final with cleaner sailing to add his name to the plethora of world-class sailors that have won the Harken Youth International. 

Tapper keeps McCutcheon at bay in their Sunday final – William Woodworth/RNZYS

“The whole week has been great, and to have 14 teams is something we haven’t had in a while cause of Covid” said Tapper. “Having a big round robin and to race a whole lot of new people while getting the whole schedule in made it a great week”.

“We couldn’t have been happier with how this regatta has played out” said RNZYS Training Manager Reuben Corbett. “Getting the best of Australia’s teams back over here and allowing our teams to sail at an incredibly high level is something we’ve been waiting to do for 2 years”

“It gives our Kiwi crews a great benchmark to measure ourselves against on the water going forward, but being able to reconnect with our friends across the ditch and seeing the great spirit everyone had throughout the last 4 days shows what a fantastic community that sailing builds”.

However, after a tough battle against fellow sailors and Mother Nature for 4 days, Robbie McCutcheon summed it up best: “It’s been a long week, and we’re ready for a good night’s rest”.

The RNZYS and all the competitors would like to give a huge thankyou to all of the umpires and race officials for running a fantastic 4 days of sailing, and ensuring the full schedule of racing was able to be run despite the Friday wash-out. With a few of the teams heading down to Wellington for the CentrePort Youth Regatta this weekend, we look forward to seeing how these youth sailors continue developing their skills and perform throughout their upcoming regatta’s around the world.

Final Results

1st – Finn Tapper – Cruising Yacht Club of Australia

2nd – Robbie McCutcheon – RNZYS/GCH Racing

3rd – Jed Cruickshank – Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron

4th – Jack Littlechild – CYCA

5th – Josh Hyde – RNZYS

6th –  Max McLachlan – RNZYS

7TH – Lucas Day – Murray’s Bay Sailing Club/Westlake Boys High School

8th – Jono Barnett – Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club

9th – Darcy Kemp – Royal Prince Albert Yacht Club

10th – Rory Sims – RNZYS

11th – Xavier McLachlan – Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron

12th – Noah Malpot – Nelson Yacht Club

13th – Braedyn Denney – RNZYS

14TH – Maeve White – RNZYS

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