Nick Egnot-Johnson and his Knots Racing Team survived a nervy final day to win the 2021 Theland NZ Open National Keelboat Championship at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
Egnot-Johnson and his team of Graeme Sutherland, Zak Merton, Alastair Gifford, Sam Barnett, and Bradley McLaughlin were the leaders after sailing five exceptional races on day one, claiming four wins and one third-place finish.
The Knots Racing team came into the final day with a five-point lead over Chris Steele and his Theland Race Team, but still needed to finish strong in the three races on Sunday to come out on top.
The first race of the day was a classic as Steele realised he needed to do something drastic to claw back some points on the Knots boys. Both boats entered a match racing dual, with Steele pushing out Egnot-Johnson at the top mark which in turn allowed other boats to sail underneath them and overtake. Once they both rounded the top mark Steele was leading, however as they took different routes to the finish it was Egnot-Johnson who found the better breeze to survive the match racing onslaught from Steele, finishing third, with Steele finishing one back in fourth.
When asked about his tactics later that evening, Steele said – “Well if you’re not first you’re last. We had to try something to get some points back on Nick [Egnot-Johnson]. We gave it a good nudge, but it didn’t quite work out for us in the end.”
However, it wasn’t all she wrote just yet as Steele fought back to win the second race of the day, with Egnot-Johnson finishing well back in seventh, setting up an exciting final race. Steele would need to finish at least three places ahead of Egnot-Johnson if he were to win the title.
The battle came down to the wire, and with a congested fleet for most of the race it was still up in the air right up until the final leg. However, Egnot-Johnson continued to sail a brilliant race, and with Steele trying all he could to catch him, it was to no avail, with the Knots racing boys going on to cross the line in third, two places ahead of the persevering Steele, claiming their second Theland NZ Open National Keelboat Championship in three years.
Enjoying a celebratory Asahi on the dock, Egnot Johnson reflected on the weekend –
“We had a decent lead heading into today but after a couple of bad results the gap closed right down heading into that final race. That [final race] was tough and Chris [Steele] was trying his best to push us down the fleet which made it super tricky, but we managed to get a couple of left shifts that really helped, and we got there, just, in the end.”
“As a skipper in these boats, you’re really just following your crew around the course and the guys have done an amazing job this weekend, I one hundred percent couldn’t have done it without them. It’s a great feeling to now be a two-time champion of this event, last year we had a really tough result finishing sixth so it’s awesome to come back from that, we are really stoked.”
Thomas Saunders was the big mover on Sunday, notching up a first, a second and then powering home in the final race to notch up another win. Saunders was a beneficiary of Steele’s pursuit of Egnot-Johnson, which allowed him to sneak past a couple of times and claim some important points that surged him into second place overall for the regatta. Speaking at prize-giving, Saunders was happy with the result but reckoned he owed someone for his fortunes –
“I think I owe Chris [Steele] a round of beers because he really let us get a few results today! I would also like to say a big thanks to my crew, to the regatta sponsors Theland, to the Race Committee, and to the RNZYS for putting on a great event.”
The RNZYS would like to thank the eleven outstanding teams who took part in what was an incredible national championship, the racing was spectacular, and we look forward to hosting the teams again next year. A big thank you also goes out to our incredible event sponsors Theland and our volunteers on the water, without whom this event wouldn’t be possible.
1st – Nick Egnot-Johnson (Knots Racing / RNZYS)
2nd – Thomas Saunders (TYPBC)
3rd – Chris Steele (Theland Race Team / RNZYS)
4th – Harry Thurston (Hotel Montreal Sailing / AYC)
5th – Graham Cunningham (RNZYS)
6th – Megan Thomson (2.0 Racing / RNZYS)
7th – Robbie McCutcheon (RNZYS PP)
8th – Sally Garrett (RAYC)
9th – Max McLachlan (Mastercard YTP / RNZYS)
10th – Peter Sumich (RNZYS)
11th – Peron Pearse (RNZYS)
Images on our Facebook page HERE
by Andrew Delves – RNZYS