The 2023 Aon Yachting Excellence Awards is only a few weeks away and the winners in four categories have already been announced. In the second of a three-part series, meet the winners of the youth performance awards, supported by Harken.
The major awards will be handed out at a gala event at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron on November 24.
Harken youth performance award winners:
Matteo Barker (Murrays Bay Sailing Club)
In late June, Matteo Barker secured the highest-placed finish by a New Zealand sailor at the Optimist world championships since George Lee Rush in 2019. Barker, one of five Kiwis in the fleet at the 2023 world champs in Costa Brava in Spain, had an outstanding qualifying series that saw him rise as high as seventh overall, before eventually finishing in 39th.
Stella Bilger (Wakatere Boating Club)
Bilger won the women’s title at two SailGP Inspire regattas in the Waszp, including at the Christchurch debut of the event. She was selected to represent New Zealand at the series final in San Francisco where she stormed to victory against seven competitors from across the globe. She also claimed podium spots at the iQFOIL national championships and the US Sailing youth champs.
Ewan Brazle (Manly Sailing Club)
The 13-year-old O’pen Skiff sailor took out the under-15 division at the 2023 world championships in Rimini in July after an impressive fightback – securing the crown with victory in the last of his 14 races. He also won the age-group titles at two major Italian ranking regattas in the build-up to the worlds, the 2023 North American Championship, the NZ national championships, and the 2022 Sir Peter Blake Regatta.
Aimee Bright (Manly Sailing Club)
Bright took out the women’s title at the Australian national wingfoiling championships and the New Zealand equivalent and finished second in the freefly slalom at the GWA World Wingfoil Tour. She was equally impressive on the iQFOIL, winning the under-19 title at the New Zealand national championships, at two major regattas in the US, as well as the NZ youth trials to secure a spot in the NZL Sailing Foundation Youth team for the 2023 youth world championships in Brazil.
Tessa Clinton and Nicola Hume (Wakatere Boating Club)
Clinton and Hume achieved a rare sailing double when they won the women’s title at the 29er national championship in June, only three months after also claiming the women’s title at the 420 nationals - making them the first female combination in at least a decade to hold national titles in two double-handed youth classes at the same time. They were also crowned overall champion at the 420 North Island championships 2022, finished first female crew at the 2023 Oceanbridge NZL Sailing Regatta, the 420 Auckland championships, and the NZ youth champs.
Greta Hutton (Murrays Bay Sailing Club)
Hutton finished 25th at the Optimist European championships in Greece in July– something no Kiwi girl has been able to achieve since Naiomi Ferrissey in 2018. Hutton has impressed all season, culminating in her victory at the Optimist national champs in tricky and tidal conditions. She managed top-10 results in half of the regatta’s 12 races in a fleet of more than 100 boats.
Callum Hyde and Callum Noyer (Maraetai Sailing Club)
Hyde and Noyer won the under-13 division at the RS Feva world championships in Follonica in July after earlier securing the junior category at the class nationals. In Italy, the duo finished an impressive fourth overall with four top-10 results across the 10 races, including a bullet in their sixth race. Hot on their heels were David and Cameron Ferris, finishing sixth overall and first in the family competition, followed by Erin and Isla Kee (21st overall, third family).
Bella Jenkins (Kohimarama Yacht Club)
Jenkins won the girls’ title at the 2022 Aims Games in September last year and followed it up with victory in the Tanner and Tauranga Cups in January. She was second to Kate Rasmussen at the 2023 Starling national champs and, along with her Westlake Girls’ High teammates, secured the school’s first NZ secondary school team championship title since 2012, as well as the same division in the 2023 Harken national secondary school keelboat event.
Sean and Rowan Kensington (Kohimarama Yacht Club)
The Kensington brothers’ impressive list of titles over the past 12 months include the North Island championships, the Sir Peter Blake Regatta, the Auckland championships, the Oceanbridge NZL Sailing Regatta, the national championships, and the NZ youth championships. They also fought their way back from deep in the fleet to finish 11th overall at the 2023 29er world championships and helped Auckland Grammar secure the 2023 Harken national secondary school keelboat title.
William Mason (Wakatere Boating Club)
Mason has had success in several different classes this season and won both the Optimist and Starling national titles within five days of each other in April. He also sailed the 29er (securing podium results at the Auckland championships and the Oceanbridge NZL Sailing Regatta), the P Class (finishing in the top-three at the Tanner Cup, Tauranga Cup, and the North Island championships), and won the SailGP Inspire event in the RS Feva at Naval Point Club Lyttelton in March.
Seb Menzies and George Lee Rush (Murrays Bay Sailing Club)
After 29er bronze at the youth sailing world championships and gold in the 49erFX at the junior worlds in 2022, Menzies and Lee Rush have shown steady progress since transitioning to the full 49er, culminating in a top-10 finish at the junior class worlds in Germany in August. The pair also debuted in the foiling catamaran for the Live Ocean Racing team in the ETF26 series, finishing the season in fourth place overall.
Jacob Pye (Manly Sailing Club)
Pye could lay claim to being the unofficial Moth world champion after sitting atop the leaderboard when the world champs were abandoned in June. Only two races could be completed – with Pye winning both – before the breeze died two races short of a valid result. He had earlier won the UK national championships, known as the pre-worlds, by beating more than 90 boats from 16 nations and dominated the 2023 New Zealand national champs in February, winning 13 of 18 races.