A taste of things to come?

New Zealand take Youth Match Racing World Championships

Sunday February 24th 2002, Author: Nigel Cherrie, Location: Australasia

After a spirited fight back from two points down in a best of five final, Great Britain lost the deciding race of the youth world match racing championship by a mere half a meter.

Paul Campbell-James (pictured right), Nick Hutton and Alex Cherry, sailing under the burgee of the Royal Yachting Association, were literally one second away from striking gold on Auckland Harbour.

The race and the title went to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron - home to the most famous match race series of all, the America's Cup.

Campbell-James and his crew had arrived in the City of Sails on a mission as Great Britain has a strong history of success in the event. Richard Sydenham, now a trimmer with the British America's Cup team claimed back to back victories in 1993/4.

Paul's older brother Mark was Blighty's last winner here in 2000 and his two crew have since gone on to earn positions in the GBR Challenge sailing squad during university holidays.

Other famous names engraved on the winners Cup include James Spithill, who went on to skipper an Australian entry in the last America's Cup and is now a helmsman with the US OneWorld challenge.

Spithill's younger sister, Katie, was also amongst the ten skippers (and their crews) from seven nations that travelled to Auckland to contest this year's five-day series. Japan, Denmark, France and the USA also fielded teams.

The young British trio started well in the unfamiliar Elliot 6.0 keelboats by winning 13 of their 18 matches in double round robin series that started on Wednesday. Campbell-James and his crew then went on to beat the second New Zealand team in the semi finals to secure their place in the best of five finale this afternoon.

But the finals, sailed in bright sunshine and blustery 15 knots winds, did not start in their favour. After twice hitting what they believed was the favoured side of the short windward/leeward course just off the Royal Yacht Squadron building, but loosing the race, they re-appraised their tactical choice.

"We hadn't worked out the tactics at the beginning of the day hard enough. It paid to go left even though the tide and breeze indicated it would be better to go right," explained Paul. "In the third and fourth race we won the left and won the race." This evened up the score at two wins apiece and left everything hanging on the final race.

In the pre-start frenzy, the Kiwi team hit the pin end buoy but Campbell-James then touched the stern of the New Zealand team, which the umpires red flagged (immediate penalty turns).

The Kiwi team kept their bow out in front for the first lap of the four leg upwind/downwind course, electing to take their penalty turn at the windward mark for the second time.

Campbell-James was able to just squeeze inside at the mark but the knock from a series of small waves on the bow killed their speed and allowed the Kiwi's to roll over the top, leaving the last downwind leg to decide the series.

After sailing neck and neck for half the final leg, the two teams engaged in a gybing duel, firing off half a dozen manoeuvres between them.

The experience of the New Zealand team was decisive as their boat handling allowed them to pull off a smoother, faster final gybe that handed them the series by one second. "We were two nil down, got it back to two all and then lost the last race by half a meter," reflected a frustrated Paul Campbell-James afterwards.

With two strong New Zealand teams sailing familiar boats in home waters, the closeness of the result almost defies the odds, "They have trained in these boats almost every weekend so to come out here and take two races off them is pleasing," added middleman Alex Cherry. But the experience bodes well for the future; Campbell-James hopes to be back next year to take it all the way.


1 Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Red Simon Minoprio NZL
2 Royal Yachting Association Paul Campbell-James GBR
3 Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Blue Laurie Jury NZL
4 King Harbour Yacht Club Scott de Curtis USA

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