In an epic Finals series, the Sharp Australian Youth Match Racing Championship all came down to one race. It was a rematch of the Finals from 2017 with James Hodgson, Harry Hall, Ryan Wilmot, John Cooley & Charlie Gundy looking for revenge 12 months in the making. After taking out Race 1 of the Finals, and leading for almost the whole of Race 2, the comeback looked complete. But defending champions, Tom Grimes, Dante Olivieri, Jess Grimes, Eric Sparkes & Emma Harrison never-say-die attitude saw them claw back and overtake in the late stages of Race 2, only winning the race by a mere one second to level the series.
Being bullied by rain clouds, in a fading, shifting breeze on Sydney Harbour,the Final ‘winner-takes-all’ Race 3 started with two minutes till the regatta deadline would have kicked in. In the pre-start Grimes made a bold manoeuvre coming within an inch of their opponent in a last-minute hook attempt which paid off, forcing Hodgson into a slow 360 degree turn only seconds before the start.
But again, the fickle and shifting breeze was read better by Hodgson on the first upwind leg, nullifying Grimes early advantage to level then pass at the top mark after a luffing duel. With the final race living up to all its expectation, both boats split the downwind leg with Grimes again passing into the bottom mark. An intense tacking duel, plagued by a heavy downpour, began with both boats maintaining the 3-length gap till the top mark before a huge split again opened on the downwind leg. Back Hodgson came but better positioning and bold tactics by the defending champions saw them gybe away from their opponent, finding new breeze to hold onto their lead. As the rain cloud passed and the breeze faded away once again, Hodgson could do nothing but look on as Grimes gybed clear into the finish line, becoming only the fourth team to become back-to-back National Champions.
“We are absolutely stoked to win back-to-back Sharp Australian Youth Match Racing Championships” commented the winning skipper, Tom Grimes.
“Honestly the Finals could have gone either way and James and his team put up an amazing fight.”
It turned into yet another successful story for the host yacht club, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA), becoming the first club to take out all podium positions in an Australian Match Racing National Championship. Finn Tapper won the petit-final 2-0 over the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club’s Niall Powers, showcasing the incredible depth of talent and commitment the CYCA Youth Sailing Academy is producing, and has been now for 25 years.
The morning began however with the sail-off series’, with Australian Schools Match Racing Champion Will Sargent (RYCT, TAS) taking out his series 2-0 over Thomas Steenson (NCYC, NSW) to be the top non-NSW team. Jed Cruickshank (DSC) representing the Northern Territory produced a come-from-behind victory to finish in 7th overall, beating Charlotte Griffin (RSYS, NSW) 2-1. Victoria’s Hayden Brown (SYC) then took out his series 2-0 over Taylor Rogers (MYC, QLD) to finish 9th overall.
With 10 teams, eight yacht clubs and five States/Territories competing, the 2018 event also marked the most diverse competition ever in the national title’s 18-year history.
This also marked the final time that the CYCA Youth Sailing Academy will host the Australian Youth Match Racing Championship in partnership with Sharp Australia. The three-year contract with Australian Sailing to host the Championship event sadly ends in 2018 with the event moving interstate for 2019. Sharp Australia have committed to continue to support youth sailing at the CYCA by signing on as a Elliott 7m Boat Sponsor through to 2020.