Thursday 2 September 2010

Interview with Reuben Corbett, Black Sheep Racing (NZL)

Black Sheep Racing with the National Congress Palace Cup, Sails of the White Nights, Russia. Image copyright Martin Kireev.

Reuben Corbett and Black Sheep Racing's entry onto the international match racing scene was marked by winning the Knickerbocker Cup 2009 at Manhasset Bay YC, New York, USA, in 2009. He was also runner-up to Laurie Jury at the New Zealand National Match Racing Championships in 2009. Black Sheep Racing are currently ranked 18th in the Open Match Race rankings; the second highest New Zealand team, after Adam Minoprio's BlackMatch Racing who lead the rankings. However, Corbett is particularly keen to promote team racing in sailing, for getting people involved in the sport.

In 2010 Corbett and Black Sheep Racing (crewed by Tom Bentham and Brad Farrand, plus various others, including Andrew Clouston) went to Europe, where they qualified for a Grade One event in fourth place, and proceeded to win the Grade One itself! The win at the Sails of the White Nights, in Russia, was significant for occurring in conditions ranging from calms to boat- and mast-breaking, and included victories over world top 5 ranked Damien Iehl (French Match Racing Team) and Eugeniy Neugodnikov (Synergy Russian Sailing Team). This qualified them for the World Match Racing Tour, where they had an excellent debut at Stena Match Cup Sweden, narrowly missing out on the quarterfinals in what turned out to be the match of the event, against Magnus Holmberg (crewed by Kiwis).

Following this, they wnet on to win a Grade 3 at La Rochelle in France, train against PAM (Pierre-Antoine Morvan) and then meet him again in the finals of the French National Match Racing Championships, the Trophee Manu Minard. Reaching the finals took them higher up the scoreboard than top French match racers Mathieu Richard, Damien Iehl and Philippe Presti, amongst others.

Black Sheep Racing during the finals of the Internationaux de France - the Trophee Manu Minard. Image copyright Bruno Bouvry/

Their marathon tour then took them on to North America, where they won the York Cup in Canada, and then finished as runners up in Chicago at the CMC Chicago Match Race. After a couple more events, they are currently enjoying a well-earned break before competing in Korea in September. Anne Hinton took the opportunity to catch up with Reuben Corbett to find out more about his background and intended sailing career.

AH: How, in what, and at what age, did you start sailing?

RC: At a very young age I was mystified as to how anything could float on water. I began to build my own model boats until one day uncle Mark (Mark Turner, BMW ORACLE Racing) bought my siblings and me an Optimist. Compared to most I was a rather late starter to sailing at the age of thirteen. From here, the journey began.

AH: What was your progression through boats/events?

RC: Fleet racing in the Optis before quickly moving onto team racing in the Sunbursts and 420s. Match racing took over in 2006 where we sailed Elliot 6m. Today, we sail a variety of small to medium sized keel boats.

Black Sheep Racing: Reuben Corbett (second from left) with Tom Bentham, Brad Farrand and Andrew Clouston, at the CMRC Chicago Match Race 2010. Image copyright CMRC.

AH: How did you get into team racing?

RC: My Secondary School (Kerikeri High School) has a strong back ground in team racing thanks largely to Derry Godbert. Derry offered me a spot in the school squad from where the fun began.

AH: When did you do the RNZYS youth programme and get into match racing?

RC: I joined the programme when I moved to Auckland for university studies in 2006. I completed three years in the programme before setting up Black Sheep Racing.

AH: Which people/teams have you competed against a lot?

RC: Phil Robertson, William Tiller, Laurie Jury, Eugeniy Neugodnikov, Taylor Canfield

AH: Please could you mention key results throughout your sailing career?

RC: 137th NZ Optimist Nationals second time I had ever been sailing
1st NZ Secondary Schools Team Racing Championships 2003
1st Interdominion Championships 2003
1st Lion Cup Match Race 2007
1st Knickerbocker Cup 2009
1st Sail of White Nights 2010

Black Sheep Racing match racing on the Neva River, prior to winning the Sails of the White Nights event. Image copyright Martin Kireev.

AH: What university/career have you had alongside the sailing?

RC: Beef farmer for five years and coaching sailing for four years. Studied a Bachelor of Commerce with Majors in Economics and Internationals Business

AH: What made you decide to take on match racing internationally?

RC: A simple passion for the sport and a desire to test ourselves against the rest of the world.

Black Sheep Racing with the York Cup. Image copyright Black Sheep Racing NZ.

AH: How do you see your sailing progressing into the future?

RC: I would like to continue the enjoyment factor whilst earning enough to support a reasonable standard of living.

AH: Of the major events – Olympics/Volvo/America’s Cup – which do you want to do (and why)?

RC: The America’s Cup! It’s the biggest event in sailing and the ultimate test in preparing the best team with all the facets like; team personale, design, build, testing, tweaking, sponsorship and then to have years of work all on the line for a couple of weeks. Creating a winning culture, sticking to your guns and achieving the goals presents challenges on a multitude of levels and the fun is in overcoming those challenges.

Black Sheep Racing during the finals of the Internationaux de France - the Trophee Manu Minard. Image copyright Bruno Bouvry/

AH: What support have you had in your sailing?

RC: Support from the Kerikeri Cruising Club and Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron who have both provided facilities enabling us to sail. Family have provided the bulk of all our funding over the years. Two coaches have had significant influence on us including Derry Godbert and Guy Pilkington.

AH: Who have been the most influential people in your sailing?

RC: Mark Turner (of BMW ORACLE Racing), Harold and Susan Corbett, Derry Godbert and Guy Pilkington.

Black Sheep Racing match racing at the Internationaux de France - the Trophee Manu Minard. Image copyright Bruno Bouvry/

AH: Who do you most look up to in sailing in NZ/internationally, and why?

RC: Russell Coutts without a doubt. He consistently forms winning teams while remaining approachable.

AH: What sponsors have you had in your sailing?

RC: Parents, Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and the Kerikeri Cruising Club.

Black Sheep Racing match racing at the CMRC Chicago Match Race. Image copyright CMRC.

AH: How did you develop the sailing programme of training/events to compete in for 2010?

RC: We targeted World Tour Qualifiers whilst filling in the gaps with other regattas that were convenient and had the greatest ranking points on offer. Of course, this was all within the confines of our team budget.

Black Sheep Racing on tour in North America. Image copyright Black Sheep Racing.

AH: What have been the highlights of racing over the past year for you?

RC: The development of our newly formed team and the direction we are heading. Results specific: Sails of the White Nights and the Manu Minard Regatta.

Video of Reuben Corbett (Black Sheep Racing, NZL) and Magnus Holmberg's (SWE, with Kiwi crew) decisive match for entry to the quarterfinals of Stena Match Cup Sweden:

AH: What plans do you have for racing in 2011?

RC: Our team only formalized plans for 2010 with our next meeting scheduled upon returning home. Depending on how 2010 pans out will determine what each individual and the team decide to do in 2011.

Black Sheep Racing on the Waitemata in 2009, where they finished runners up in the New Zealand National Match Racing Championships. Image copyright Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

AH: What developments in the sport of sailing would you like to see in the future – in NZ and internationally?

RC: (a) Increased use of technology for umpires and sailors in order to apply the racing rules of sailing.
(b) Some form of payment for umpires.
(c) Increased accountability for umpires’ performances.
(d) A better representation of sailing as a whole at the Olympics or at the very least, the world sailing championships.
(e) I would like to see team racing used as a tool to encourage more people to sail at a younger age as it is an enormous amount of fun. Team Racing has the potential to take sailing to another level in the form of television exposure.

AH: Thank you very much indeed for your time and all the best for your future sailing career.

Black Sheep Racing