Coinciding with the Notice of Race for next year’s Red Bull Youth America’s Cup being published and the start of the RC44 Bermuda Cup tomorrow, five potential candidates for the Team Bermuda youth team were presented to the press at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club this morning.
The Red Bull Youth America’s Cup will take place over 13-22 June 2017 and each RBYAC team will comprise six crew, each of whom must be 19 or under 25 on 31 December 2017. Ambitiously, they are to race the same foiling AC45 catamarans currently being used for the America’s Cup World Series.
Several tacticians from the RC44 fleet - Vasco Vascotto, Ed Baird and Cameron Appleton, all of them past America’s Cup sailors - spoke about the value of the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup that was set up for the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco to provide a pathway for young sailors to progress up the ranks.
Recruitment for Team Bermuda started last summer and, since then, the initial group of 100 has been whittled down to 30 following a series of training camps. This will be further reduced to 12 over the next few months.
Their next training camp will take place over Easter when the candidates will get their first taste of sailing on board some newly acquired Nacra 17 catamarans.
As Jane Savage, Chair of the Committee of the RBYAC Team Bermuda and past Commodore of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, explains, the choice of the Nacra 17 was one of legacy. “That is what Sir Russell [Coutts] is trying to do - Bermuda is the perfect community for sailing and we don’t take advantage of it. So we are trying to make sure that there is a legacy left after the America’s Cup. The Nacras are an Olympic class which we currently don’t have in Bermuda.”
From its relatively small population of 66,000, Bermuda fielded 49er sailors Jesse and Zander Kirkland, at the London 2012 Olympics, finishing 19th. For Rio 2016 they will be represented in the Laser Radial by Cecilia Wollmann. However in recruiting for the Team Bermuda crew the selectors have casted their net wider, into other sports. As Savage explains: “That is based on the way sailing is going: You can’t just have sailors on board boats any more. You need a mix of sailors and athletes.”
For example, one Team Bermuda hopeful is Mustafa Ingham, who is a soccer player and athlete, although he has sailed a few dinghies. This week he is learning the ropes on the RC44 circuit with Chris Bake’s Team Aqua.
The catalyst for such youth programs of course are heroes and role models and this morning Ed Baird, Vasco Vascotto and Cameron Appleton were playing this part.
Appleton summed up the sentiment: “In New Zealand there is still a rich platform for sailors to get a leap into the sailing world. But if you look elsewhere in the world, established platforms to make the next step up haven’t really existed. The Red Bull Youth America’s Cup has given young aspiring sailors with wonderful talent and motivation a goal to head towards.”
He nodded towards Ed Baird… “When I started sailing this guy was the one to beat.”
Baird retorted: “You mean, I’m not now???!”
Appleton continued: “There was Ed and also the likes of Russell Coutts and so forth to look up to, to follow and aspire to. As time has moved on, we are all trying to beat each other on the race course. Establishing a platform is most important so we have welcomed Mustafa into our group. He has been getting a lot of praise from the guys.”
Ingham has been helping out the Team Aqua crew this week and has been down at the boat at 0700 and frequently not finishing until 2130. “It is just amazing seeing the difference between casual sailing and professional sailing,” he said. “These guys have made me feel like part of the team. I really appreciate the opportunity I was given.”
Team Bermuda sailors will also get the opportunity see what racing on the RC44 is like close up, and during the week will get to experience the guest spot on board during racing.