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200 Students Raced in Harken National Secondary Schools Keelboat Championships

A third Harken National Secondary Schools Keelboat Championship in four years is heading to Westlake Boys High School. This time a new skipper’s name will be on the title, as Lucas Day and his Westlake Red crew of Robbie Woolridge, Levi Jenkins, Josh Hilder and Sam Clarke took the weekend over 19 other teams, including last year’s champions in the Westlake Green team.

“We had some challenging conditions all weekend, so we just kept things simple and consistent for Finals and performed when it counted,” said a thrilled Day.

With 200 high school sailors taking to the water over the weekend, there was plenty of exciting racing and many close finishes, especially in the final races of both fleets with many of the final placings being decided by mere centimeters.

Gold Fleet racing was almost wrapped up after 2 races, with the Nelson College Combined team taking out two victories in the first two races to put them in prime position. However, a mid-fleet finish in Race 3 and a disqualification for crossing the start line too early opened the gap and the Westlake Red crew were more than happy to jump into position to take the 2022 title back to its familiar home on the North Shore.

Westlake Red and the Saint Kentigern College team stayed within touching distance going into the final race, with both teams tied on 10 points while the Nelson Combined team sat with a two-point lead. However, with their disqualification from the final race alongside the Kerikeri Blue team, Westlake Red and Saint Kentigern College found themselves in a one-race sprint to decide the champion. Day and his crew were able to manage the nerves and the light winds to claim only their second win of the weekend, and the one that mattered the most in the end.

The Silver Fleet finals showed some excellent racing throughout the afternoon, with plenty of tight races and huge improvements from across the crews. The Silver Fleet title was won by King’s College, helmed by Sam Scott, who didn’t live up to their own expectations on day one but returned with a vengeance for finals. The Whangarei Boys High School team won three out of the four races but hamstrung themselves with a last place finish and their worst performance of the weekend to start their Sunday campaign, losing out by one point to the incredibly consistent King’s College crew.

“We weren’t happy with our performances on Friday in the light winds, and we had a few incidents where we were stuck on the pin,” said Scott. “However, we put that behind us and came out with more energy and found our consistency, which carried us through the day”.

“I couldn’t be happier with how the weekend has gone – for many of these kids coming from single- or double-handed dinghy sailing this is the only chance they get to sail for their school in a boat this size,” said Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) Head Coach Reuben Corbett. “It’s always encouraging to see fresh faces travelling from across the country and a full competition – this is the first time we’ve had a full 20 teams, and we even had to turn away a few which is unheard of!”

The RNZYS wishes to share a huge thank you to all the sailors, Race Committee, volunteers, coaches and parents that helped make this weekend a resounding success. The continued expansion of Secondary Schools sailing around the country is an incredibly hopeful sign for the sport in New Zealand.

“We’ll definitely be back to defend our title next year and try bring home a threepeat to Westlake,” says Day. It will take some doing to wrestle the title away from them in 2023.