Photography by Andrea Francolini
Leonard Takahashi, Josh Wijohn, Taylor Balogh and Tim Snedden have become the 2017 Musto International Youth Match Racing Champions, defeating the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Harry Price 3-2 after a thrilling final series which took all 5 races and was only decided on the final spinnaker run to the finish.
This marks the end of a fantastic two weeks for the Pacific Racing Team which represents the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron but sails for Japan, who have become only the third team in history to win back to back match racing events in Sydney after taking out the Harken International Youth Match Racing Championship last Sunday afternoon on Pittwater.
In the end, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Race Management team completed a record 139 races over the four-day competition. Takahashi has led the regatta from Day 1, scoring a near perfect round robin score of 13-1, only tripping up only once against the Dutch team skippered by Jelmer Van Beek.
They continued to dominate their competitors right up to the final series, taking out the quarter finals 3-0 over CYCA’s James Hodgson and then again taking a clean sweep in the semi-finals over Tom Grimes, also from the CYCA. This set up yet another match up against the event’s host yacht club skippered by Harry Price.
The finals saw some of the most thrilling racing of the week, with spectacular conditions on Sydney Harbour producing one of the most closely fought finals in years. With the breeze averaging 17 knots and peaking at 24 throughout the final day, there was drama in Race 1 when Takahashi had to retire before the start gun was even fired. A blown-out clew on the mainsail in the final minute of the pre-start gifted Price an early lead in the series.
Race 2 saw Takahashi bounce back, levelling the series 1-1 after controlling the race throughout and then taking out Race 3 to get to match point in the finals.
Price and his team of George Stent, Harry West, Hugo Stoner and Tara Blanc-Ramos stormed back in Race 4 to take the Final series to a winner-takes-all Race 5.
With everything on the line, Price took an early lead in the final race, leading around the top mark before Takahashi passed on the run. Up the second beat, Price again staged a come back but again the downwind speed and precision of the Japanese team proved to be too much. Takahashi sailed around and across the finish line to take the race and the Championship.
“We are absolutely thrilled with the result today. It has been an epic two weeks for our team and I really want to thank the boys, the RNZYS, our coaches and supporters for everything they have done for us. It was an unbelievable week. Perfectly executed by the CYCA and we can’t thank them enough for running a superb regatta. We will definitely be back next year,” commented Takahashi back at the dock.
As the winner of this World Sailing Grade 2 event, the only youth match racing event in the world with this grading, Takahashi will receive an invitation to the 2018 Ficker Cup hosted by Long Beach Yacht Club. This event will also be a World Match Racing Tour Qualifier for the 2018 Congressional Cup in March next year.