For the first time since its inauguration in 2001, a female led all-women crew brilliantly captured the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron’s longstanding Hardy Cup Sydney International Match Racing Regatta trophy at the end of four days of intense competition on Sydney Harbour.
Last year Clare Costanzo and her Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club teammates finished bridesmaids at the same event. On Thursday 8 February, 2018 the RPAYC’s five-strong youth team beat George Anyon’s Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron team 3-0 in the finals, sailed in 20+ knot nor’easters off the host club at Kirribilli.
In doing so Costanzo broke an 18-year run of gun male skippers taking out the grade 3 youth event, and with an all-female crew.
Costanzo, Jess Angus, Hannah Lanz, Ruby Scholten and Celia Willison celebrated with a swim and some champagne then official photos before three of the five dashed to the airport for a 7.30pm flight to New Zealand, where training for the final youth match racing regatta in the series of three begins today, Friday 9 February.
“We’ll have to celebrate our win at the end of the next regatta, the Nespresso Cup,” the 21-year-old winning skipper said from the airport, flanked by Angus and Lanz and a change of teammates for New Zealand’s premier youth match racing event.
“We were aiming for a podium finish; to win is amazing. The results are a credit to the crew, we won by out-sailing the boys in terms of our crew work. On the last morning we said to our coach Tom (Spithill), ‘where’s our motivational speech?’ and he said, ‘you don’t need it!’ A big thank you to Tom, who never stopped believing in us, and the RSYS race management team,” Costanzo added.
Spithill has spent the week on-water supporting his two RPAYC crews, the other helmed by Clare’s younger sister Juliet. Today he’s waking up in Auckland where he will coach and mentor two different teams fielded by his club for the Nespresso Youth International Match Racing Cup, 9 to 13 February.
“The result is huge for women in sport. This team proved how competitive they are both in terms of their match racing tactics and boat handling skills on the Elliotts,” the proud coach said of the ground-breaking Hardy Cup victory.
Second was George Anyon (RNZYS) and third was Tom Grimes (CYCA).
RSYS Commodore Richard Chapman summarised: “The Hardy Cup sits at the end of the youth match racing summer calendar so the teams are well-practised and we’ve been privileged to watch first-rate competition all week. In Thursday’s finals we witnessed some of the best and closest match racing we have ever seen.
“It’s been an excellent regatta for top youth sailors like Clare and George Anyon, but also for the less-experienced skippers such as Hayden Brown from Sandringham and the RNZYS’s Patrick Harris, who made it through to the semi-finals and pushed Clare all the way.
“It’s wonderful to see match racing return to favour; it’s a terrific discipline for both young sailors learning their craft and also the sailing stars of tomorrow who have America’s Cup ambitions,” the Commodore added.
The four-day schedule of round-robin racing whittled down to four finalists was completed under the guidance of race officer Ian Kingsford Smith and his on-water team in consistent Sydney summer conditions. Morning winds were generally too light for racing to commence, then the NE sea breeze arrived at lunchtime and built to 18 knots over the course of most afternoons, stronger on the last day.
Very noticeable to RSYS organisers was the camaraderie between the teams from NZ, interstate and around Sydney, and the respect shown to Costanzo and her team throughout the series.