For the second year running an American team snatched victory at the Cowes International Youth Match Racing Event…
King Harbour, skippered by Scott DeCurtis, snatched victory from pre-event favourite Michael Dunstan, Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, in a close best of three final held in some of the trickiest sailing conditions of the week.
Holding fort for the British teams was Royal Thames’ John Greenland who finished a credible third place, and South Caernarvonshire Yacht Club’s Alex Taylor, current BUSA Match Racing Champion, in fourth. Greenland, who had lead the event for the majority of the week, missed out on a place in the finals on count back when a loss to Dunstan during the final race of the round robin left three top boats tied on just three loses a piece.
“It’s amazing how close the racing was,” commented Greenland. “There aren’t many events I’ve been to where three boats have been tied for first place after 15 races.” Unfortunately poor wind conditions, which plagued the event organisers for the week, left the race officer with little choice but to go straight to finals and playoffs leaving the Brits with no opportunity to fight back against their foreign rivals.
In the final Dunstan, ranked 50th in the world, put up a good fight, however superior boat handling from DeCurtis, ranked just 267th, proved to be the winning formula. In their first clash DeCurtis led from start to finish, extending his lead at every corner, leaving the top Australian match racer with a lot of work to recover hopes of victory.
In the second race it was Dunstan who led at the start and, for a while, was looking good for a win. Just as Dunstan was starting to look comfortable a windshift in favour of DeCurtis’ San Diego based crew saw a rapid, and unexpected, change of lead. With just a run to the finish remaining Dunstan was unable to recover – conceding race two and with it overall victory.
The playoff for third and fourth place was a closer affair. While the honour of the last podium position was at stake it was the more prestigious title of first British boat driving Greenland and Taylor in their heated battle.
Greenland, entering the arena from starboard, dominated the early stages of the pre-start, but in a last minute change of control it was Taylor’s team ahead when the two boats crossed the start line. A well timed dive to the port end saw Taylor’s team, made up of ex-Bristol university students, pull clear ahead. As with the Dunstan DeCurtis match there were no opportunities for Greenland to claw back into the game leaving South Caernarvonshire YC to take the first race.
Races two and three were, however, a different story. Both times Greenland looked to have the upper hand. In the second race it was Greenland’s turn to dive for the port end. As the start gun fired a large shift to the left further enhanced the Royal Thames’ already substantial lead away from the line. The Royal Thames finished with a ten boat length lead, setting the scene for an exciting decider.
The final race was closer. Though Taylor was a penalty down a solid start from the starboard end saw him with a clear four boat length lead over Greenland – almost enough to clear the penalty and remain ahead. The race, however, was not over. On the second upwind leg Royal Thames managed to reach a large shift on the right hand side of the course before Taylor. Taylor’s lead was demolished with Greenland rounding the windward mark ahead. The race was over. A penalty and three boat lengths down Taylor lost all hope of recovering the lead.
Throughout the week racing was close. At the half way point three teams were tied for first place and a further three were tied for fourth. In fact, heading into the final day of racing, there were eight boats still capable of making the final four. An impressive statistic at such a high calibre event.
Though the British teams again showed improvement over previous years the fact foreign teams have filled the top spots for two years running is a sorry reminder of how little match racing there is in the UK as apposed to other countries. Hopefully as the sport gains in popularity the number of events around the country will grow.
By John Greenland
Final Results – Top 5
1 King Harbour YC, USA, Scott DeCurtis, Brian Angel, Steve Brown, Payson Infelise
2 Royal Sydney YS, AUS, Michael Dunstan, Hamish Stone, Dylan Potter, Paul Bugoine
3 Royal Thames YC, GBR, John Greenland, Mark Lees, Helen Beasley, Tom Finch
4 South Caenarvonshire YC, GBR, Alex Taylor, Jon Blackburn, Tom Halhead, Sam Lones
5 Southampton University, GBR, Andrew Cornah, Ben Field, Matt Radmore, Ed Surrey