Highway to the Danger Zone. Thurston/Bell Win the 2023 Harken Young 88 Nationals

Published Tue 28 Mar 2023

Last weekend’s Harken Young 88 Nationals saw a typically competitive and on form fleet assemble to battle it out on the full length and mostly “Riviera free” racecourse North of Rangitoto. 

In the words of winning helm Harry Thurston “We really enjoy the competitive racing the Young 88 class brings and the boys were firing on the weekend! We are stoked to take the title in some very challenging conditions! Looking forward to next year already!”. 

Jonny Bell and Harry are the joint owners of Danger Zone and after venturing North for the Auckland Champs and a few Norths Sprints nights finally got the boat into top gear and rumbling for the Nationals with a convincing win.

Jonny and Harry also picked up the Corinthian trophy for the first boat with no “pros” aboard and the Tanaka Cup for first owner driver.

Second place was Karyn Drummond - Flash Gordon on debut in the Nationals going to countback to just edge out Greg Wilshire on the refurbished and “on fire” Vagabond. 

Karyn said: “Awesome to get in seven races. Celia Carson and her race committee did a great job as did the Y88 Association team for the organisation of the Nationals. Really close intense racing at the front and the back, where if you found yourself, it was near impossible to rise through. This class of boat is incredible”.

The Mixed Crew award for first boat with more than two from a different gender went to the team on War Machine with a fourth on line.

The Taylor Trophy for being a “great sport” went to Rick Hackett – Skitzo for once again for generously lending his boat to a “keen as” younger crew. Braedyn Denney and a bunch of super keen sailing mates made a late and perfectly timed run to the start all the way from Tauranga. They even managed to fit in a hull clean before the first race!

First on handicap went to Luke Judge – Satellite Jonny McCabe’s older but refurbed 88 sailing well above “their number”.

Nick Egnot Johnson was sailing Undercover but had an uphill battle after their main halyard broke on Saturday. A trip to the top of the mast with some borrowed fishing line and sinkers was not completed in time and they had to wear two DNS.

Conditions were “gorgeous” as is typical of Auckland 😊 and tricky to say the least with a gradient Westerly battling against a sea breeze on Saturday and a steadier but still shifting NW – W breeze on Sunday ….. miss the shift and you were dead!

Class President Mike Leyland reminded everyone at the briefing on Friday night that sailing is a non-contact sport and by all accounts this request was upheld. The on-course umpires Cathy Hobbs and Louis Mayo helped to keep everyone honest with some immediate on water calls where the rules were pushed too far.

It was also great to see that the whole fleet passed the on-water safety gear and class rules compliance checks confirming that everyone is playing fair and playing it safe.

Prize giving Sunday night saw the crews fill the always awesome Quarterdeck Restaurant at the RNZYS for some good-natured banter, spot prizes, team hugs and recognition for the winners.

Thanks as always to naming sponsor Harken, Race Officer Celia Carson and her team of volunteers for a job well done under trying conditions, the umpires for a great job over two long days on the water, Organising Authority the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron for another veryprofessionally run event both on and off water and LiveSailDie and videographer / drone pilot Liam Dobson and media boat driver Graham Applin for grabbing some great shots in the small and unfortunately wind less window.

For more info on the Nationals including links to results, photos and videos please go to the Young 88 event page 

Next up is the more relaxed, hugely fun and innovative Mount Gay Rum 1-2-3 series…….. How many keelboats can you do a world class regatta in, sail single handed, two handed and three handed as well as take a family of five plus dog cruising over summer?