Alastair Gifford, the sailing nominee at the recent Marlborough Sports Awards, underlined his ability at international level with a notable triumph in Australia late last month.
Gifford, who is based in Auckland, skippered a Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) team to victory in the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club’s (RPAYC) Harken International Youth Match Racing Championship near Sydney.
He and his team of Henry Angus, Chester Duffett, Hunter Gardyne and Seb Lardies successfully defending the title won by fellow club member Jordon Stevenson last year.
In the final, Gifford’s crew defeated the world-ranked No. 20 team from Wales, skippered by Matthew Whitfield from Penarth Yacht Club. Gifford pocketed the $1200 winner’s cheque, with $800 going to Wales as runner-up.
Resilience was required. Gifford’s team had to recover from being two down in the final, but the Kiwis fought back to win the next three matches in the best-of-five series, to take the title.
Gifford said the standard of competition was high making it “a pretty hard-fought event”.
“We knew it was going to be tight competition, so we’re very happy with how we went, especially coming up against the Welsh who are number 20 in the world,” added Gifford, whose crew went in world-ranked 117.
“We had a little bit of practice before we came here, but it’s the first time we’ve raced together,” he said.
Throughout the event, the Kiwi crew lost only four matches, two in the round robin, and two in the final. In the semi-finals, they took on the RPAYC all-female team skippered by Juliet Costanzo and beat them 3-0, while Whitfield’s Welsh team sailed against the other RPAYC team skippered by Alistair Read. The Welsh team won 3-1.
Tom Spithill, the RPAYC’s head coach, commented: “The regatta went very smoothly. The breeze got up to 22 knots on the first day, and really tested everyone’s boat handling. It was light to moderate for the rest; a good all-round package. It showed who can sail well in all conditions.”
Ten international teams took part in the 27th Harken International Youth Match Racing Championship. Clubs represented were RPAYC, Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, Darwin Sailing Club, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club in New Zealand and Ireland’s Royal Irish Yacht Club.
The competition is raced in Elliot 7 boats of equal standard, making sailing skills paramount. Sailors must be under-23 and crews can field 4-5 members.