Marlborough duo claim William I Koch International Sea Scout Cup sailing trophy in California
A couple of young Marlborough sailors have "nicked" a prestigious international sailing trophy from under the noses of their hosts.
Marlborough Boys' College duo Nicholas Gardiner and Nicholas Williams won the coveted and hugely valuable William I Koch International Sea Scout Cup in Long Beach, California, last week.
The Kiwis finished 15 points clear of closest challengers, USA, becoming the first overseas team to win the trophy, and by the biggest margin in the history of the event.
The regatta is held every two years and sponsored by William (Bill) Koch, a former America's Cup skipper and winner, to support the development of youth sailing. The event is limited to 40 double-handed teams from around the world.
Koch presented the cup to the winning team, but as the trophy is made by the same silversmith as the America's Cup and two inches bigger, and valued at over US$250,000, it is not allowed to leave the country and goes back into the display vault in Houston, Texas.
More than 80 young men and women from 10 countries converged upon the Long Beach Yacht Club, sailing two-person Flying Junior boats. They were divided into two flights, after a preliminary round. The championship flight gold fleet sailed for the Koch Cup while the silver fleet allowing sailors to compete for a Maori carved statue known as the Kiwi Cup.
Gardiner and Williams, who are members of Marlborough Venturers, the Queen Charlotte Yacht Club, Waikawa Boating Club and the Marlborough Boys' College Sailing team, made the most of the opportunity.
Seventeen year-old Gardiner said the conditions were different to what he had expected. "Last time I was there the winds were a bit lighter. But even if you don't like the conditions, you have got to learn to like them, and we did.
"This has definitely been the highlight of my sailing so far."
Williams, 15, said it was a "great experience and an exciting time".
"The highlight of the event, apart from the sailing, was the prize giving when we actually got to hold the trophy."
It was the second attempt at the Koch Cup for Gardiner, who competed in 2014 alongside Seren Adams and was placed a creditable fourth. Following this event, Gardiner teamed up with Williams and, 18 months ago, put together a training and regatta plan.
They first had to win the right to represent New Zealand and they won the NZ trials convincingly in September, 2015. They have also has success in the 420 class, winning the South Island title, and were offered a place in the NZ team at the 420 open worlds in Italy.
As this event clashes with the Koch Cup, the duo opted for the American campaign.
Gardiner and Williams travelled to the USA two weeks prior to the event to prepare and it soon became apparent they had made the right call.
After winning their section in seeding races, they were placed in the Koch Cup fleet. On the first day of finals, with six races sailed in winds up to 18 knots, the Kiwis were top-placed, scoring just eight points compared to their closest rival's 15.
Gardiner and Williams were well placed going into the final day but were mindful of Team New Zealand's America's Cup meltdown, so left nothing to chance. In conditions ranging from 4-14 knots they sailed superbly to win four of the five races and clinch the trophy.
Team Nick and Nick thanked their parents, Chris and Sara Williams plus Ian and Miranda Gardiner, and their sponsors for the help and financial support that enabled the team to put together the build-up programme and attend the event.