Mainland schools no match for Friends
Hobart’s Friends School has added another trophy to an impressive history in interschool sailing, with its crew yesterday winning the Australian schools match racing championship on Sydney Harbour.
Skippered by Will Sargent with his team of Issi Declerck, Ethan Gailbraith, Archie Ibbott and Anna Reid, the Friends won a nail-biting grand-final, 3-2, against Sydney’s Scots College, skippered by the experience match racing sailor Hugh Stoner.
Another Hobart school, Hutchins, with Sam King as skipper, won the petit final to finish third overall.
Coached by well-known Hobart sailor Zac Pullen, the team of teenagers flew in from Auckland late last week after finishing a close second overall in the Interdominion schools team racing championship near Auckland.
Taking in their stride, the change of boats, from 420 dinghies to high performance Elliott 7 sports boats, they finished top of the leaderboard among the eight school crews from New South Wales, Queensland, the Northern Territory and Tasmania.
In the first semi-final yesterday, Stoner’s Scots College crew won from Sam King (Hutchins) 2-1 while Sargent and the Friends crew eliminated the Queenslanders from Flinders College, with Taylor Roberts on the helm.
King went on to beat Roberts in the petit final for third overall while Stoner (Scots) and Sargent (Friends) began a duel for the championship.
Friends won the first of five matches, but Stoner took out the next two encounters to lead 2-1.
“Friends just won race four, so all tied. In true Friends fashion it is all down to the final race!!!!” an excited team manager (and mother) Amanda Sargen texted ‘The Mercury’.
“Both had penalties so now cancelled, hearing up to the last rounding but Stoner has a red flag flying.
“We won….protest hearing now!”
And finally: “Rest easy, protest dismissed…they are the National Champions!!”
With a strong southerly forecast always on offer, the question was if the teams were even going to be able to hit the water. But a determined Race Committee team, led by Denis Thompson, pushed hard at the right times, whilst also cautioning on the safe side at others, to complete the full schedule of racing over the two days.
Day 1 saw the completion of the round robin stage with teams racing with spinnakers up till midday no spinnakers were called for the afternoon. The Friends School, Scots College and Hutchins Schools all took early leads and looked certain for the semi-finals. The final semi-final berth though was still up for grabs with defending champions from Flinders Schools in Queensland, managing to scrape through over Darwin’s Jed Cruickshank.
At the end of the round robin stage, both Friends and Scots College were tied, with Will Sargent from Friends, coming out on top due to their win over Scots College Hugo Stoner in their match up.
Both semi-finals ran to form with Will Sargent dominating his match against Taylor Rogers (QLD), whilst Hugo Stoner defeated the highest ranked skipper in the regatta, Sam King from Hutchins School (TAS), to advance to the finals.
The Finals series saw a great display of match racing between the two teams, with all 5 matches needed to determine the regatta winner. Race 1 saw a late charge from Stoner and his team, but a controversial umpiring decision gifted the Tasmanians the early lead.
Stoner and his team came storming back in the following two races, to level the series, then pass heading into Race 4.
After a pre-start penalty to Sargent in Race 4, the race unfolded for Stoner at the top mark in lap 1, when he collided with Sargent in a port and starboard situation. That collision cancelled out Sargent’s penalty, and gave him control of the race to level the series and take it to a tie breaker.
In the final winner-takes-all race, both teams threw everything at the race, with several lead changes on each leg. But the race and the regatta were decided at the bottom mark gate, with an intense gybing and luffing duel catching the Scots team off guard.
This allowed Sargent to round cleanly and ahead to sail away up the final windward leg to take out the regatta 3-2.
For Sargent, his racing week will now continue onto the Sharp Australian Youth Match Racing Championship, starting on Tuesday, where he will be looking to claim his second National title.
Words: Amanda Sargent, Peter Campbell and the CYCA
7 October 2018