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Congressional Cup

NZ match racers on the job for more opportunities

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Nick Egnot-Johnson and the Knots Racing team almost feel like they're at a job interview each time they race, given the opportunities that could come their way if they do well.

The team finished a very credible fifth at last week's Congressional Cup, narrowly missing out on the semifinals when they were beaten by Kiwi-born skipper Scott Dickson in the last flight of round robin two.

On the way, they established a record of 10 wins and eight defeats and can claim to having beaten eventual champion and four-time winner Ian Williams, who is also the world's No 1-ranked match racer, in one of their matches. They also finished the first day with the second-best record, which buoyed their hopes.

"After the first day, we were really shocked to realise that we were almost at the level [required]," said Egnot-Johnson who, at 20, was the youngest skipper competing in the event. "We were really pushing to make the semifinals but just missed out."

It still brought about an unofficial invitation from the Long Beach Yacht Club to return for next year's Congressional Cup and the team hope more overtures will come out of it.

It's all about opportunities for Knots Racing right now because they don't really have anything locked in beyond the Nations Cup, which gets under way in San Francisco tomorrow. That's why they feel like every regatta is a like a job interview.

"It's a bit like that," said Sam Barnett, who trims the main. "Each good performance, there are a couple of opportunities to come out of it and, I suppose, if we don't put down a good performance maybe you miss out on something. Getting entries is often down to your prior performance at a regatta as well as ranking so we need to get a quality result each time."

Egnot-Johnson added: "A lot of it is also how you handle yourself off the water, trying to make friends with people at the yacht club and representing your club and country well rather than being a dickhead about it. 

"I think that's something we do really well as a team. We're trying to work on having a good image."

They will have another opportunity to do that at this week's Nations Cup, when 10 teams from 10 different nations compete in San Francisco in a double round robin format before semifinals and finals. 

Italy's Ettore Botticini is the highest ranked skipper in attendance, at No 4, with Egnot-Johnson the fifth-highest at 18th. Botticini beat Egnot-Johnson in the semifinals on the way to winning last year's youth match racing world championships on home waters.

Racing in the Nations Cup will be in J22 boats, which are normally for three crew but will have four for this event. Egnot-Johnson will sail with Barnet, Tim Snedden (trim) and Zak Merton (bow). 

"They're really small, tricky boats to sail," Egnot-Johnson said. "The good thing is we are going to be on weight and it's a windy venue so we're hoping we have a really good boat-speed edge throughout the regatta.

"But we don't know how we are going to go because we haven't sailed against any of these guys before in these boats. We don't have any expectations but we go in with a bit more confidence after the Congressional Cup."

Footnote: Knots Racing finished fifth in the Nations Cup.