RNZYS Club Champions just fall short of Seawanhaka Cup Glory

 In Major Regattas, Match Racing, Member Interest, News

The grand prize for this year’s RNZYS CBRE Club Championship Finals was a trip to the Seawanhaka International Challenge Cup held at Long Beach Yacht Club, California. Our RNZYS team of Harry Dodson, Will Tiller, Ian Darby, Mark Christensen, Dallas Bennett, Niall Malone and Sam Hume convincingly advanced through the round robin before falling in the final to Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club’s team helmed by Congressional Cup 3rd place winner Chris Poole in a hard fought 4 race final.

“The team’s first goal was to make the semifinals” said skipper Harry Dodson, “but it was just great to be travelling again and sailing at an international level”.

Poole carried over great form from his 3rd place at the earlier Congressional Cup sailed in the same Catalina 37’s and managed to recapture the Seawanhaka Cup for the Seawanhaka club. 

“While Chris beat us in both our round robin races, they were both close races so again we felt we had the team to beat Chris and his team – it was good to take one race off them but it was just one step too far”, said Dodson.

The RNZYS crew, who normally sails together on the TP52 ‘Mayhem’, joined the weekly MRX series in the 2021-22 season and managed to win the Club Championship Finals. 5 of the 7 crew members are Youth Training Programme graduates, which truly made the team an RNZYS crew.

“Sailing one design boats like MRX’s was a big help but adapting that to the Catalina 37s is the hard part” said Dodson, “but having Will Tiller as part of our team who had raced these boats many times was a big help”.“It was quite a big change jumping into the Catalina 37s as they are a much slower boat and can be very difficult to maintain speed in match racing manoeuvres” said crew member Niall Malone. “With the Catalina’s also being a dip pole gybing boat, it was a bit of a change for the bow team”.

The team showed fantastic form all weekend and qualified for the semi-finals with a 12-4 record, with their only round robin losses coming to Poole twice, the Royal Canadian Yacht Club team in Round Robin 1 and the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron crew in Round Robin 2. However, the team won the matches they needed to against fellow semi-finalist hopefuls in Round Robin 2 and would have had the tiebreaker against all other teams if it was needed.

The RNZYS team in action – Bronny Daniels

“We pushed the limit with high risk manoeuvres in the first round robin’s pre-starts like hoisting the kite early, and a spin a win penalty at the end of our first race against the Royal Norwegian Yacht Club team”, said Malone. “We found our groove in the second round robin and had pretty consistent boat speed advantages around the track.”

Due to light winds, the finals day race course was shortened which made the starts crucial to win. “We beat our semifinal competitor Peter Holz in both our round robin races so knew we had the ability to beat Peter in our semi if we sailed well” said Dodson.

The conditions led to some tight pre-race duels between the RNZYS crew and Peter Holz’s Chicago Yacht Club crew, but the RNZYS crew was able to qualify for the final in 4 races. “Two of our three wins we won the start and didn’t give Holz any chances, and our other win we managed to force him into taking the unfavoured gate and passed him on the second upwind”, described Malone.

Dodson and the RNZYS team lost race 1 to the Seawanhaka crew, but managed a great start to race 2 and kept their distance from the Congressional Cup bronze medallist on the shortened racetrack to tie the final up. However, Poole won the next two starts and subsequently took the Seawanhaka Cup home to Oyster Bay, NY for the first time in 3 years.

“We fought hard in the finals but have to give credit to Poole and his team, we sailed well and managed to take a race off him but at the end of the day he won more starts and didn’t give us any opportunities to pass” said Malone. “It’s great to be back sailing internationally this year, I’ve been travelling a lot and racing in the Youth Foiling Gold Cup so it was great to join the Squadron team and do a match racing event. We all enjoyed this regatta a lot and we’re stoked with the result”.

The RNZYS team would like to thank all of the competitors and officials for an awesome 4 days of sailing, the Long Beach Yacht Club for being their hospitality, the Squadron for funding their travel, and RNZYS member and former Congressional Cup skipper, Doug Pye, who hosted the team at his Long Beach home and sharing some tips about the local sailing conditions.

See the Seawanhaka International Challenge Cup results and recap at https://www.lbyc.org/Default.aspx?p=dynamicmodule&pageid=195&ssid=100460&vnf=1

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