The first phase of the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup selection process is underway this week. Six teams of youth sailors are spending two-day sessions training under the tutelage of ORACLE TEAM USA with the hopes of earning a spot in the main event next September.
At the conclusion of the team selection trials, two teams will be chosen – one to represent the U.S. and one to represent San Francisco. Both will spend the next nine months training for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup finals, with coaching and guidance from ORACLE TEAM USA.
The sailors are ages 19-24 and hail from around the U.S., including several from the Bay Area. The crews are made up of collegiate All-Americans, youth World medalists and members of US Sailing’s Development Team – all talented sailors with years of experience on a variety of boats…but none on an AC45.
“Before we even went sailing – in the shed, helping rig up the boat – you see it and realize it’s just a boat,” said Ian Andrewes, skipper for the American Youth Sailing Force. “We were definitely more timid doing the first bear away, the first gybe, the first tack, and then progressively got more aggressive. At the end of the day, you’re still sailing. Sailing with the wing is different, but not as daunting as I thought it would be.”
Held at the ORACLE TEAM USA base at Pier 80, the team selection trials include physical training and instruction. After an orientation, they step onboard an AC45 for the first time – the same class of wingsail catamarans sailed in the America’s Cup World Series – and learn the workings of the boat before heading out on the Bay. ORACLE TEAM USA coaches Darren Bundock and Philippe Presti are guiding the process, and sailors Sam Newton, Kyle Langford and Rome Kirby are assisting both on-and-off the water.
“Overall, we’re pleasantly surprised with the level of sailing,” Bundock said. “In two days, we saw massive improvements with the first two teams. The advantage of having a pair of our guys on the boat with them is they can demonstrate how to do things right the first time, allowing the teams in two days to get close to a point that might have taken them six months.
“We weren’t easy on them,” Bundock continued. “We had them on a short course doing lots of maneuvers, which is tough. It’s good to see how they react and handle things once they get behind and things start to escalate.”
The teams are evaluated based on a variety of factors, including boat handling, trimming skills and crew communication.
“We’re looking for teams with a lot of potential, with the ability to improve over the course of this program,” Bundock said. “We also want teams that work well together. We’re evaluating how the individuals are performing, but also looking at the decision-making process and how they’re working together as a group.”
Two teams have completed the trials process – American Youth Sailing Force and Ocius Racing. Teams remaining to complete the selection trials: Team America Racing, Team City Front, Winged Victory and Quest for the Cup.
The team selection trials conclude on November 20. Both teams selected advance directly to the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup finals in September 2013, and both will be coached by ORACLE TEAM USA.
And, with only two days under their belts on an AC45, the first teams are ready for more and focused on how they earn those coveted spots.
“We were definitely nervous going in – this was farther than we ever expected to come,” said Ian Liberty, skipper for Ocius Racing. “Fitness is our No. 1 priority moving forward. We knew going in to this we were going to be a small team, and doing the fitness test emphasized that fitness is going to be one of the biggest parts of this whole thing.
“We were all super stoked to be sailing the boats, and it was a lot of fun for everybody,” Liberty said.