KNOTS Racing Year in Review 2019

 In Member Interest, Performance Programme

2019 was a ground-breaking year for the KNOTS team. We achieved our first Grade 1 win, won the Match Race Super League and rose to No. 2 on the World Match Rankings, from 23 at the start of the year.

Here is our 2019 in review…

In January we all competed at Bay of Islands Sailing Week, Nick and Zak were on the mighty Kia Kaha TP52, winner of A division, Sam was 3rd on PHRF in B division doing tactics on Clockwork and Brad was with Anarchy. Bay Week is one of the premier events for yacht owners in NZ and there was certainly a lot of intensity on the race course.

We then joined up together for the Warren Jones Regatta in Perth. This was one of our major disappointments of the year. We performed well throughout the event, ending the qualifying with a leading 17/5 record, before two errors of boat handling cost us our semi-final. This was a major knock for us, but fortunately we will have the chance to return this year to put this right, in one of our favourite regattas of the year. This event was also notable for the introduction of Tim Snedden, who is now a core part of the team.

In February we bounced back straight away with a win at the Hardy Cup in Sydney, overcoming James Hodgson’s team in a titanic semi final, with a pass on the final run, before sweeping the final to get our first Youth International win. We backed it up with a win on home turf at the Nespresso Youth International a few weeks later, after a real tussle with Vento Racing. This event also marked the introduction of Alastair Gifford, taking on the bow, as Brad had aged out.

March was a welcome month at home, with the priority being Stewart 34 training for the Congressional Cup. Thanks to Charles, Guy and the rest of the Stewart group for supporting this. Sam also earned 3rd place at the 470 Nationals, keeping the dinghy racing skills up to date. The month ended with the Jack Tar Auckland Regatta, where Tim won on PHRF on Georgia, Sam won on EHC on Clockwork, Brad was third in both on Anarchy, and Zak was racing on Deep Throttle.

April was the Congressional Cup month. Our peak event for the year, the team arrived in Long Beach dialled in. We welcomed Graeme back into the team on tactics and Suellen joined us for the first time, running media for the team. We had a superb Congressional Cup, stepping up and proving we were a contender against the most experienced match racing teams in the world. Going into the final race it was winner takes all with fellow Kiwi Scotty Dickson for the final semi final spot. We didn’t manage to steal the last spot, but put together an awesome week of yachting. We followed up the Congressional Cup with the Nations Cup in San Francisco, but struggled to adjust to the small and gutless J/22 boats and crew reshuffle necessitated by the nationality rules. We managed to scratch a 5th place, but left disappointed. April wrapped up with a Keelboat Nationals at home, where we managed to take out the title with a picket fence, and had a lot of fun working with Suellen and the sponsors, Theland Milk, on a range of promotion activities. 

Enthused and invigorated by our Con Cup trip, we spent May planning and working on promotion. We decided to go North for the winter and do as much racing and training as possible to build our experience, ranking and brand. Brad also got to do a bit of racing, heading north early to compete at Palma Vela and the Menorca TP52 Super Series events on Gladiator. 

June begun with Match Race Germany. Racing with the same team as Warren Jones earlier in the year, the dynamics clicked for KNOTS. The 9.5 ton Bavaria 40s were very unusual match racing craft, with twin bathrooms a closet and a stove all new accoutrements for us. After a week of light and variable winds, a thunderstorm coincided with the finals. We prevailed 3-2, over defending champion and current World No.1 Eric Monnin, to take our first Grade 1 win. Brad then crossed the Atlantic to rejoin Gladiator, where he competed in the NYYC Annual Regatta and Block Island Regatta. The rest of the team went up to Gothenburg, Sweden for a training block, before heading to the Netherlands for a new project. We had secured an M32 catamaran to race in the M32 European Series, starting in Medemblik. We were joined by Swiss based Kiwi Stephen Jones for this event. It was a tough learning experience for us with the set up, logistics and boatwork at a different level to the match racing events, but we stepped up and sailed a pretty good event, winning many of the starts and showing tidy boat handling. However we were a click off the pace, showing more work to do on our rig tune and better sealing our hulls, which had delaminating board cases, which we couldn’t entirely fix during the event. We finished the month with another win, taking out another of our favourite events, the OM International on Lake Ledro in Italy. Ledro is one of the most beautiful venues in the world and the relaxed and fun vibe in summer makes it a real highlight. On the other side of Europe Tim joined Bergqvist match race team for the Midsummer Cup, a new Grade 1 event, where every team was made up of two girls and two guys. 

July bought our first foray into the top 10 in the world rankings, reaching a new high of 7th. Sam and Zak joined Sjambok Melges 32 for the World League event in Lake Garda, paradise for sailors. The Melges fleet is of a very high level and we loved the intense racing. We were stoked to help the team to the Corinthian title, a first for Sjambok. At the same time Brad was in his home country, the UK, where he took out the British IRC Nationals, again on Gladiator. Zak and Tim then returned to M32 mode to another of the best sailing venues in the world, Marstrand, where the next M32 European Series was held. Bolstered by the M32 experience of Joachim Aschenbrenner and LP and HC Rosendahl, the lads put together an epic performance to take 3rd place, ahead of many pro teams in their own boats. At the same time Nick, Sam and Alastair competed at the Governor’s Cup, the premier U23 event in match racing. Held in Newport Beach California annually, the Govs Cup was a peak event for us. We started slowly, with the GC22 boats and wavy conditions taking time to adjust to, but we found our form as the regatta developed. We had a tough battle in the semi finals against Jack Parkin, a former rival of Sam and Zak in the 420, but managed to prevail with superior starting. The final was an epic, mate v mate, with some of our closest rivals, the Pacific Racing Team. By the time the final occured the breeze had built to a solid 18 knots and big waves, making it a test of endurance and technique, as well as a starting contest, where the heavily favoured right side was imperative. We came through to win 3-2, which meant a lot, in a field with all our best youth rivals. 

August brought a real diversity of events, as we all made the best of a month with fewer team events. The peak event of the month was the Youth Worlds in Ekaterinburg, Russia, where was Nick was joined by Alastair, Taylor Balogh and Celia Willison. After medium winds the first day the wind disappeared, with only a handful of flights completed over the next few days. KNOTS unfortunately ended up second after dropping a couple of early races and not having a finals series to contest for the win. Tim and Sam were both still in Europe, doing a bit of work in the industry, including coaching at the Ladies Worlds. Zak rejoined them in Stenungsund, Sweden for the next M32 event. At this point our setup and technique was really coming together, but the impending World Championship in Italy meant many of the top teams from Marstrand weren’t there to test ourselves. However we sailed well to take second behind Ian Williams’ GAC Pindar. Then we all spread out, with Sam joining Emil Kjaer’s Danish team competing in the Sopot Match Race grade 1, Zak returning to Long Beach to the Viper 640 Worlds where he finished 4th, Tim to Detroit with Chris Poole’s Riptide team where he finished 2nd, and Brad carried on with his Gladiator programme, racing his hometown Cowes week event and the TP52 Worlds in Puerto Portals. We were all stoked to meet back up together in Oakcliff, NY for the last events of our tour. 

September brought our tour to a close, with the full team reunited on the SM40s, some of the best match racing boats ever built. We had a bit of a shaky week, with a couple of starting errors in the final of Oakcliff and errors around the course on the first day of the Thompson Cup costing us the wins, with 2nd place finishes for both. It was clear that it was time to head home, see friends and family and get back to training. 

October dawned with the Yachting Developments NZ Open Match Race Nationals. A strong field assembled, including our coach Reuben Corbett, who would be a tough opponent to get through if we wanted to take a first Nationals. We showed how we had grown as a team to win the qualifying and final, which was held in super light and variable conditions. Next up was the KNOTS Racing Speakers Series Event, where we told the story of our European tour in the Quarterdeck of the RNZYS, presented the trophies we had won to Commodore Ian Cook and auctioned off a number of prizes, including the watch we had won at Match Race Germany. Thanks to everyone who supported this event. We then dispersed onto a range of yachts for the iconic Coastal Classic, where Nick and Zak were on Kia Kaha, Sam was on Miss Scarlett, Tim was on Mayhem and Brad on Anarchy. The race was a real send up the coast, with Tim’s Mayhem 3rd on line and PHRF in 1A and Brad’s Anarchy 2nd on line in 1B. 

In November we were all involved in the China Cup, with Tim stepping up onto the TP52 Phoenix and Nick, Sam, Zak and Brad all key parts of the RNZYS Performance Programme team competing among 20 Beneteau 40.7s. Tim excelled on the Phoenix, getting to do the main and winning the event. The Performance Programme team had a more mixed event, with two UFDs spoiling what was otherwise a very high quality series. We all learned a lot in China and came home with a lot of enthusiasm for mixing in more fleet racing with our match racing. We also came away with an acknowledgement from Yachting New Zealand for our results over the year in the form of a Performance Award. 

December had us again crossing the globe to the new venue of Bahrain, where we took out the Match Race Super League title, which recognised our performance throughout the year, and the Kingdom Match Cup, which came with the award of beautiful Omega watches. Tim finished the season with a call up to the Team Hollywood TP52, for the King’s Cup in Phuket, where strong winds challenged the field, and the team came through for the win. 

At this point you might be wondering how all these match racing events fit together; so we put together this table to explain. 

Open EventsYouth Events
Peak EventCongressional Cup Governors Cup, Youth Worlds 
Tier 1Nations Cup, Match Race GermanyWarren Jones
Tier 2OM International, Oakcliff International, Thompson Cup, NZ Open Nationals, Kingdom Match CupHardy Cup, Nespresso Youth International

Overall 2019 has been a hugely successful year for KNOTS. We have all developed our abilities, won events and built the KNOTS brand. 2019 will be a launchpad for even greater achievements in 2020. Thanks to everyone who has supported and followed us in 2019. Especially to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, LiveSailDie, Musto, Emirates, East Imperial, Charles Scoones, Guy Pilkington, Gary Sugden, Steve Purton, Steve Mair,  the NZL Yachting Trust and all those who have hosted us this year, including Swan River Sailing, the Quinlan family, Frank Stynes, Randy Pennington, George Dort, Sabine, the Alm family, the Bergqvist family, the Coon family, Toni & Barry McManus and Oakcliff Sailing. Thanks also to our employers GT Yachting, Harken Fosters and RigPro for your trust and flexibility this year as we manage work and yachting. Lastly, a huge thanks to our families and partners who have supported us immensely throughout the year, wherever we have been in the world. Here’s to a fantastic 2020!

By Knots Racing

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