The first ever Red Bull Youth Challenge at the 162 year old America’s Cup produced another win for New Zealand. Not one but each youth crew from New Zealand placed with Peter Burling’s crew on NZL Sailing Team with Emirates taking first while William Tiller’s Full Metal Jacket Racing took second. Results here.
I asked the winning skipper Peter Burling at the press conference what the best advice was that he received from Emirates when transitioning to the AC45s, the towering multi-hulls that nobody else has sailed except the professional racers in the America's Cup qualifiers. The first person he credited was man of the hour wing trimmer Glenn Ashby, who has been in the news this week. Ashby is pictured left.
Glenn Ashby gave me advice on trimming the wing . . .
Ashby is the young New Zealand native who helped his team win the Louis Vuitton Cup to earn the right to challenge the America’s Cup defender Oracle Team USA, the finals starting Saturday. Even with the America’s Cup starting Saturday, Ashby appeared on the marina green dock to greet his protégés when each New Zealand team came ashore after winning the Challenge.
Glenn Ashby, wing trimmer
Auckland native Glenn Ashby said in an interview at his base camp along the Embarcadero yesterday afternoon that he operates the engine of the giant AC72 catamaran, figuratively. He handles the hard sail that’s bigger than a jet wing. The principles resemble those for a traditional soft sail, with the trimmer adjusting twist and camber. How tight or loose the sail is affects how the wind flows over the sail and so the amount of power it generates. The boat gets pushed or pulled, essentially sucked forward, by the aerodynamics, the wind.
Ashby received media attention on Tuesday not just for his skills but because the wing trimmer on the defender Oracle Team USA was just banned by a respected jury for altering the one-design AC45s. Oracle’s team will be absent one of five crewmen and the alternate will have little time to get in tune and in sync. The reformed crew will have little time to gel. Nevertheless. Ashby said the outcome of the America’s Cup final will remain the same, even with the USA’s negative two point penalty. He said it’s been terribly distracting however and he’s not even on that team.
Ashby said he doesn’t have a special ritual before the big race and he won’t do anything special such as have his favorite meal. He won’t do anything that varies from the routine. The kitchen at the diner nextdoor to the camp said the men eat a lot of pancakes and poached eggs.
Ashby would love to win the America’s Cup in large part because he would like to have the next Cup at home in Auckland. He like most of the America’s Cup sailors has children. Ashby has two small children and one will be starting school. The four year old, a boy, comprehends his Dad’s work or as Ashby would say, their life. Ashby says yacht clubs line the coast of New Zealand and one can sail yacht club to yacht club. He lives in Australia currently.
I asked him about something I thought his skipper Dean Barker said about the Kiwi culture. Did he say the team has a non-competitive culture? Ashby himself said with a smile he’s very competitive by nature. He is a professional sailor and it’s his life, not his job.
Note Barker said on Tuesday evening about the jury decision that, simply, he “goes with the jury decision”. It doesn't affect him as far as his sense of nationality goes either, he said.
“No”, Barker does not talk to Russell Coutts, Barker also said. Coutts is the CEO of Oracle Team USA and has been knighted by New Zealand.
Here’s a little Kiwiana from the Barker family:
But back to the youth, the men 19-24. The Red Bull Youth Challenge was such a breath of fresh air and such a happy thing to experience. It’s everything the America’s Cup San Francisco should be. A full fleet; the newest and cutting edge designs that keep developing daily, literally; races that actually happen and don’t stop prematurely because of exasperating equipment failure or Mother Nature refusing to cooperate by blowing high wind.
It’s what San Francisco in particular is supposed to be—the first America’s Cup ever to be inland where the public may watch without having to sail their own boats or charters on the open ocean. The accessibility is unprecedented with spectators and sailors happily meeting each other face to face after the races with daily poster signings, something informal and fun with great photo ops, hugs and kisses. The Cup saw a big increase in girls and young women with the Red Bull Youth Challenge.
Portuguese take third
The Portuguese team ROFF/Cascais Sailing Team with one boat took third place. Consequently the Portuguese got one big step closer to the country entering the America’s Cup someday or at least having Portuguese sailors on the crews. The Red Bull Youth Challenge was a thrilling experience and a success in many ways.
The experience also seemed to be excellent training for the Olympics, with frustrated Australian crew members to name a few returning home after today to do just that. What the Olympics and the Red Bull Youth Challenge have in common is a heartfelt welcome nationality requirement. The amature and gifted athletes actually have citizenship in the country represented. The Kiwi teams look Kiwi, the Swedish team looks Swedish, the Portuguese teams look Portuguese—because they are. They also come up with their own funding and only the boat use and professional sailing guidance are provided by the America’s Cup.
The Red Bull challenge looked like a winner, a crowd pleaser, right from the start blessed with gorgeous summer weather, moderate bay winds and no race cancellations except for the last race due to wind. The only disappointments to speak of were the equipment problems with the gennaker of the Australian boat even though the AC45s are one-design. The Australians sailed great though.
The whole fleet probably felt disappointed by the cancellation of the final race, race eight, today due to high wind, just half a knot over the limit at one point, particularly since the race carried double points. The teams were basically within a point of each other with three-way ties.
The American teams finished fifth and tenth, last.
The fleet races with ten AC45s used by the professionals in the America’s Cup qualifiers remained gloriously competitive with the eight countries remaining in a pack or with just a few boat lengths between them, looking almost like a parade sometimes, unless somebody took a chance and crossed the course.
Note the Red Bull Youth Challenge is open to women.
For more information about the first Red Bull Youth Challenge or the America’s Cup San Francisco, www.AmericasCup.com.
Check out youth sailing around the Bay at www.SailSFBay.org, particularly the 75 year old program on Oakland’s Lake Merritt.
The America’s Cup pavillion is along the Embarcadero before Fisherman's Wharf and is an easy walk, pedicab ride, bike ride or Muni ride from the ferry building and Embarcadero BART. The village and grandstands are at Marina Green.
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