Top schools compete in this weekend's Auckland Cup

Harken Schools Teams Racing Auckland Cup
Daniel Johnston

On the March 31, seven of the top sailing schools in the region will be battling it out at the 2011 Harken Schools Teams Racing Auckland Cup (Auckland Championships), hosted this year by the Bucklands Beach Yacht Club (BBYC).

Aiming to qualify for the national competition later in the year St Kentigern College, Pakuranga College, St Cuthberts College, Kings College, Westlake Boys, Long Bay College, and Auckland Grammar School will compete in a double round robin with the top four teams going on to the semi-finals. Decided over a best of three series, the overall winner will be awarded the prestigious Auckland Cup.

Teams racing, for the uninitiated, can best be compared to stock car racing, or roller derby, with short duration races involving multiple teams from each school. Formula One style team tactics play a big part in the matches with 'blockers' able to disrupt and hold up other boats at either marks or up beats. The team tactics enable other crews from the same school to catch up and overtake, scoring valuable points in the process.

The scoring is based on combined placing’s for the team, rather than the more traditional line or handicap honours system. This results in some interesting permutations for the scorers, with as many as 50 races per day being run during any one regatta. The short ten minute sprint races are sailed on a S shaped, upwind orientated course, giving crews the opportunity to test a variety of skills and also employ a number of tactical options.

Sailed in 420 dinghies either owned by the schools or provided by local clubs the schools racing programme provides opportunities for young sailors to both hone their tactical skills under pressure and gain valuable knowledge through club managed coaching programmes.

Harken Schools Teams Racing Auckland Cup
Daniel Johnston

BBYC have been running their 420 programme for a number of years under the expert tuition of match racing coach Laurie Drury who will be continuing his association with the club in 2011. Harken have come also on board as sponsors this year providing fit outs to all six of the BBYC boats with Marlow ropes providing the sheets and control lines.

Each set of three boats are easily identified by matching brightly coloured sails, which are allocated to each team at the beginning of each regatta, with a draw that ensures the rotation of boats between teams. The rules are quite strict regarding modification, use of electronic devices, and conduct with infringements risking disqualification from the regatta.

The course will be set off Bucklands Beach in the Tamaki River and the organisers are hoping for ideal 8-12 knot conditions over the two day event.