If you are young and ever wondered what sailing with the big dogs is like, powering these high performance catamarans with towering masts on San Francisco Bay, the America’s Cup in San Francisco holds the selection series this month to February 24, 2013 for young teams from around the world. America's Cup heroes appeared with the young competitors last week at Pier 80.
Selections from these twelve aspiring teams of six fit men each aged 19-24 will compete in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup September 1 – 4, 2013. The youth teams sail the same AC45s, the wing-sailed catapulting multi-hulls the professionals sailed last summer on the Bay for the World Series. German and New Zealand teams led at the end of the week and need to have outperformed the remaining six next week.
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The youth teams have their own websites.
Oracle CEO Russell Coutts says the youth do not yet get to try their hand at the AC72s, which the public probably sees practicing on the Bay. The Swedish team Artemis based in Alameda and the USA team Oracle based at San Francisco’s Pier 80 way past the baseball park practice racing together sometimes.
Artemis team members Iain Percy and Nathan Outteridge along with Oracle’s Ben Ainslee joined Coutts and Spithill. Spithill noted it was luck that brought him to the America’s Cup as there was no pathway. The Red Bull Youth series means youth sailors have more funding and resources and do not have to own their own boat. Coutts says the youth have a wider participation potential. However, it’s very physical now while the youth have organized sponsorships and are highly trained.
Click on youth team websites and you see Audi backs the Germans. This youth team sails out of the 1972 Olympic site and after docking the boat the youth don’t even have to de-rig it themselves. Pictured in the slideshow, Southern California sailing photographer Jim Collins helps the German team carry their sail to the boat before the photo shoot on the water.
This German team along with New Zealand’s Full Metal Jacket candidates stood at the top of the chart but to keep two of the four slots, last week’s winners must outperform the other six this week. Tuesday there appears to be a ninety percent chance of rain but Wednesday looks clear with plenty of wind in the afternoon.
The media tent at Pier 80 held a world of Olympic talent that cold, sunny Wednesday morning as the hosts stood shoulder to broad shoulder on stage. Each one confessed to having won Olympic gold medals. All except for young Jimmy Spithill on the end, who volunteered to take a spot below his fraternity and sit on the steps. Spithill remains the youngest ever America’s Cup winning skipper.
Oracle CEO and four-time America’s Cup winner Russell Coutts did not deny being fifty years old.
Coutts looks perfectly tuned and tanned. He stood with teammate Ben Ainslee. Men like this shouldn’t even be legal but when a television videographer hoisted his camera and aimed at Jimmy Spithill, the reporter asked about the sailors’ carousing and womanizing. Jimmy, a tad embarrassed but still composed, actually answered fairly seriously rather than facetiously. He answered, with me at 5’4” and 53 years old, hidden silently behind the videographer but looking over the tall man’s shoulder at Jimmy. Spithill said, I didn’t get involved in a lot of the things others did. I was at home with milk and cookies.
The line-up seemed in agreement that professional sailing requires a higher degree of fitness than it did before.
Brit Ben Ainslee said to me the training likens to skiing. Each type of sailor performs a different specific work out depending on his job. We put the grinders on the grinding machine, he smiled. The sailors don’t necessarily train for endurance like a runner or bicyclist although the youth did look small and lean generally. Agile. No extra ballast.
How does a sailor get to the level of America’s Cup fitness? One young skipper hesitatingly admitted that his team, the entire team, “made a mistake” and ate giant American burritos before the grueling work out. They, uh, overate. It’s not just what you think. He eventually admitted that once one sailor started puking, they all started. Okay, so it was the Austrians. “We had a little accident.”
On-shore training pushes youth sailors to the limit.
Last summer Coutts had said to me, when professional sailors apply to him, if they are even a little out of shape he doesn’t consider them.
During the press conference a youth skipper likened the game to football or rugby. He had mentioned how each team member performs intricately while in action during the race, so that if one drops the ball for a second the team loses. It’s a fun environment he said, fast-paced and multi-skilled.
Dinghy skills do come in as the youth sailors get their wings. Coutts agreed with Spithill and Outteridge and noted the skills from smaller boats transfer immediately. Nathan Outteridge noted how these are touchy, tweaky boats and a sailor needs to accustom himself to how the tiller feels. Once you get your head around the mechanics, it’s like how to sail a little boat, he said.
Oracle put on view in dry dock the AC72 before an enormous crane hoisted it and gently lowered it on it’s mark in the water, an orange mooring that looked like a life ring. Coutts said it’s the old AC72 hull with a new wing and reminded me of how the first one got wrecked. “Good job on that” I said, marveling at the towering wing still secured by a crane. The wing is literally the size of a jet wing, just vertical and there’s no counterpart below. That’s part of the astounding thing about aero and hydrodynamics. This massive beast actually foils—flies above the water. Coutts seemed relatively relaxed for a serious man and pleased he got this beast up to 46 knots in a cross wind and predicts a top speed of 50 knots.
Recently Oracle seems to have given up sailing in favor of life in the slow lane, heading to the bowling alley. Skippers Spithill and Coutts still wore matching outfits complete with bowling shoes tied with neon green laces, the new Oracle glow-in-the-dark color.
For more AC stories, check out
America’s Cup interview with defender skipper Russell Coutts
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