As the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup team selection trials wrapped up, all teams quickly learned communication is a big part of sailing an AC45, and that it pays to get a little help from friends…including a few new friends.
ORACLE TEAM USA coaches and sailors were along for the ride throughout the process, offering instruction and guidance to the six participating teams.
“It was really positive to come out of a tack, get the boat going, look back and ask, ‘Hey, what did you think of that? Was I a little too low out of it, or a little too high out of it?’” said Max Fraser, skipper for the Winged Victory crew. “That instant feedback was really, really helpful. To have someone on the boat was very beneficial – you could do every single maneuver and go back over it and learn from it so your next tack or jibe was better.”
ORACLE TEAM USA sailors Sam Newton, Kyle Langford and Rome Kirby assisted coaches Darren Bundock and Philippe Presti over each two-day training session. From rigging the boat to calling the shots in the fitness test, they provided helpful tips and a boost of confidence for the first-time AC45 sailors.
“For the majority, they had never been on a boat much bigger than a dinghy, so the first day it was a lot of basic stuff – which way to load the winches and how the gears work on the winches,” Langford said. “But, once they got the grasp of that, there wasn’t too much to go through beyond safety, making sure they understood loads and looking after the boat. They did well.”
The final pair of teams completed the trials this week – Winged Victory and Quest for the Cup. Both are vying for one of two spots ORACLE TEAM USA will select to coach through to the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup finals in September 2013.
“It was a lot to take in for our team – the learning curve is so steep that you’re getting new information thrown at you all the time,” said Quest for the Cup skipper Judge Ryan. “It was almost better to slow everything down and you really got to process it all. The first day, we were just trying to bang out maneuvers. Then the next day, we took the first 40 minutes kind of slow and figured everything out, then went into the buoy races and I thought did really well.”
Six sailors make up each youth team, one more than America’s Cup World Series teams because the sailors are, on average, 40-50 pounds lighter than a Cup sailor. After an initial training session on the water, they had the opportunity to do practice races around the buoys.
The youth teams are being evaluated on a variety of factors, including boat handling, trimming skills and crew communication. Adding that extra person onboard proved helpful in performing those skills.
“They learned to back each other up – if one person was struggling, it got a lot better when they backed them up,” said Newton. “You really learn to be flexible and do all of the jobs on these boats.”
From this first stage of the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup selection process, two teams will be chosen – one to represent the U.S. and one to represent San Francisco. Both will be coached by ORACLE TEAM USA and spend the next nine months training for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup finals.
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 elite sailors – collegiate All-Americans, youth World medalists and members of US Sailing’s Development Team.
“Obviously they all come from dinghy sailing, and they’re all good sailors,” Kirby said of the teams. “But these boats are so fast and so physical. We reminded them to slow it down and do things right, and try to understand how everything works before trying to race. This whole experience has given them a better idea of what it takes to sail at this level – the physical level, the sailing talent, and all the stuff that has to go along with it. There’s a lot more than just the sailing.”
While Kirby and Langford are the same age as many of the participants in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, their personal experiences in learning to sail an AC45 and knowledge of what it takes to compete resonated.
“They’ve been good to talk to about how they got to where they are today,” Ryan said. “I talked to Kyle and Rome a fair bit about where they started and how they ended up on the team. Rome said you’ve got to really decide what you want to get out of this and where you want to take it. That kind of hit home.”