Friday, February 23, 2024
HomeRegattaAmerica's CupThe Foiling Generation: Sailing in Fast Forward

The Foiling Generation: Sailing in Fast Forward

Whilst the senior teams hog the headlines as they train in their AC75’s, AC40’s and LEQ12’s, all around the world the Youth and Puig Women’s America’s Cup teams are pushing on hard with some having already confirmed their selections and others well into the process. On the water training has been conducted in a variety of foiling boats from the Waszp dinghy through to the ETF26 catamarans and the Persico 69F foiling monohulls whilst almost all the teams have access to the McConaghy’s simulator package that accurately mirrors the real-world environment of AC40 high performance foiling.

It’s an interesting and desperately competitive time for the Youth and Women’s teams from 12 countries, all of whom want to make it onto the ultimate sailing pathway and follow their dreams to the America’s Cup. And for the Cup teams themselves, all of whom are obliged as a condition of entry to field both Youth and Women’s teams, they are very much seeing the pathway as a valuable investment in their own future and are giving opportunity aplenty to the next generation to learn from the senior sailors.

In this spirit, NYYC American Magic have very much embedded their Youth sailors into the senior sailing team with the likes of Harry Melges , Finn Rowe and Severin Gramm getting plenty of time on the team’s AC40s throughout the summer months in Barcelona whilst also combining some highly successful 69F regatta sailing on the 69F Cup America circuit in Miami and Newport.

One of the most professional and in-depth approaches has come from Alinghi Red Bull Racing who have been conducting assessments all summer ahead of announcing a 12-person squad in October after a final training session in Barcelona. Led by the highly experienced and long-term team members Coraline Jonet and Matthias Bühler, with input from senior coach Nils Frei, plus senior managers Pierre-Yves Jorand and Hans-Peter Steinacher, the Swiss Women’s squad that has been selected features the likes of triple Olympian Nathalie Brugger, 18 year old Nacra 15 European champion Marie Mazuay, Tokyo Olympian Maja Siegenthaler, and ILCA4 World Champion Anja von Allmen, round the world sailor Elodie-Jane Mettraux and 49er ace Alexandra Stalder. For the Youth team, Alinghi Red Bull Racing selected 49er World Championship runner-up Arno de Planta, 69F aces Arnaud Grange and Jann Schüpbach, 420 sailor Morgan Lauber and TF35 sailor and qualified commercial helicopter license holder Joshua Richner.

The Alinghi Red Bull Racing selection process was intense with a mix of on-water assessments followed by off-water training and evaluation covering everything from media profile and media relations through to simulator training and physical exercise. The Swiss have left no stone unturned as Nathalie Brugger confirmed saying: “The selection process has made me, and a lot of other candidates, realise how many talented women and youth sailors we have in Switzerland! This is really cool for our sport and the future. We were given a little taste of how the Cup can be during our week in Barcelona with the atmosphere, the intensity, the professionalism, and the level of confidentiality that goes with it. I’m looking forward to sail the AC40 and to discover the world of the America’s Cup, and to learn as part of a great team.”

 Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, equally has invested heavily in their Youth and Women’s teams and their approach has been very much racing focussed with the team supporting three crews on the 69F Youth Foiling Gold Cup circuit. The ‘Luna Rossa Swordfish’ crew consisted of Guido Gallinaro (helmsman), Leonardo Chisté and Alessandra Dubbini; the ‘Luna Rossa Piranha’ crew had Margherita Porro at the helm, with Stefano Dezulian and Federico Colaninno, while the ‘Rum Runners’ featured Rocco Falcone (helmsman), Filippo Amonti and Alice Cialfi.

Accompanied by coach Simone Salvà, the under-25 sailors, among the best talents of Italian youth sailing who had taken part in Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli’s Youth Camps, the Italian Rum Runners team made it to the grand finale of the Youth Foiling Gold Cup 2023 after a solid result in Torbole recently with Margherita Porro and Guido Gallinaro just missing out, with Margherita having a nasty crash that caused her elimination.

“This was a very important event for us”, said Max Sirena, Skipper and Team Director of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, “not only in terms of scoring and ranking, but mainly because it concerned the sailors, we are focusing on to form the Youth and Women teams; every regatta we enter at this level is useful for the experience we take home. Above all we are happy that Margherita is feeling better and that the accident that involved her turned out to be less serious than it could have been, she will need a period of rest, but Luna Rossa is waiting for her and I’m looking forward to having her sail on our boats again. All in all, considering the days the guys have spent on these boats, they have done very well because both in La Grande-Motte and here in Torbole they have shown a very good performance. I would say that the balance is positive in all respects. We go home knowing that we have learned a lot, and this experience will help us to better manage the months ahead of us between now and next year’s regattas in Barcelona. My congratulations to these guys. Now it’s back to work to prepare for the coming and important regattas.”

As might be expected of the Defenders of the America’s Cup, Emirates Team New Zealand are deep into the evaluation process after receiving 121 applications to join their Youth & Women’s teams. The Kiwi programme led by Josh Junior and Elise Beavis has the support of Cup legends Kevin Shoebridge and Ray Davies plus a selection panel including Suzanne McFadden, Polly Powrie and RNZYS Vice Commodore Gillian Williams. Narrowing the field down from the original application numbers has seen the Defenders select 10 Youth and 6 Women for further evaluation with an emphasis on simulator training alongside reviewing data and becoming absorbed into the unique team culture of Emirates Team New Zealand.

A top class line-up of sailors including International Moth national champion Jacob Pye, 49er Olympic representative Leo Takahashi and 420 World Champion Seb Menzies lead the Youth Team whilst the Women’s team see the likes of World Champion Red Bull Foiling Generation Liv Mackay, Olympic silver medallist in the 49erFX class Molly Meech, Gold and Silver Olympic medallist Jo Aleh, Olympic Silver medallist Alexandra Maloney and Olympians Erica Dawson and Gemma Jones all fighting for the four spots on the AC40. Talent all round, the New Zealand team is strong.

The Challenger of Record, INEOS Britannia, is deep into their evaluation process, training out of the National Sailing Centre in Weymouth with Britain’s most successful female Olympian Hannah Mills OBE leading the ‘Athena Pathway’ programme and encouraging a large pool of talent to attend for consideration. The British have serious talent in the women’s pool with the likes of Olympic gold medallist crew Eilidh McIntyre, National and European Waszp champion Hattie Rogers, Kate MacGregor and Nicola Boniface all competing in the team’s ETF26 around European regattas.

The Athena programme had over 300 applicants and selection has been thorough and extensive over the past year since they launched at Cowes Week in 2022 with the team having the use of Waszp dinghies and an onsite AC40 simulator in Portland. Final selections for the British Youth & Women’s squads are due to be announced at the end of 2023.

The French meanwhile having secured title sponsorship of their Women’s team from cosmetics giant L’Oreal have been quick to appoint a nine-person team of women plus two reserves and an eight-man team of Youth sailors plus two reserves. Names to watch in the Women’s squad include Amélie Riou, Manon Audinet, Lara Granier, Margaux Billy, Jessie Kampman and Audrey Ogereau whilst in the Youth team the likes of Clement Cron, Enzo Balanger, Matisse Picaud, Titouan Pétard, Théo Revil, Leo Maurin, Mathilde Lovadina and Ange Delerce who will all be competing for slots on the team’s AC40 and training hard in the simulator and on the water.

Training out of the Port de Sitges is the ‘Sail Team BCN’ – the home team for the 2024 Youth and Puig Women’s America’s Cup – and after securing sponsorship from the Foundation Zero, the selection process for the teams is well underway. From a management perspective, Sail Team BCN has a wealth of experience to call upon with Catalan sailing legend Guillermo Altadill as Team Principle, backed up by international manager Stewart Hosford as CEO leading the team and bringing in Monica Azon as Women´s Coach under the umbrella burgee of the fabulous Real Club Náutico de Barcelona that is based right in the heart of the Port Vell.

The Dutch have been busy building a team around their successful 69F sailors of Paul Hameeteman, Eliott Savelon, Aleksandr Moliakov, and Ismene Usman with Bart Lambriex, Bjarne Bouwer, Wiebrand de Vos all being announced as the Youth squad for the Dutch Sail team. In the Women’s Dutch Sail Team, Odile van Aanholt, Annette Duetz, Maxime Jonker Arianne van de Loosdrecht, Ismene Usman and Willemijn Offerman. 

Coached by Olympic legend Pieter-Jan Postma, the Dutch were one of the first to take delivery of a simulator as well as being the first to announce their team and have been working hard with the squad both on the water in Barcelona through the late summer and onshore. Pieter-Jan commented “When we continue to strengthen cooperation and work together, I think we in the Netherlands really have a good chance of being at the top, but that will not happen automatically. We try to be and stay one step ahead of the competition by doing everything a little smarter. We were one of the first to purchase a simulator, partly thanks to the support of our partner JAJO. But we are now also the first to complete the selection. In addition, we try to bring together all available knowledge at the various knowledge institutes but also in sports. Everything to be as well prepared as possible at the start in a year’s time.”

Much anticipation awaits around Team Canada who have hired Isabella Bertold to lead the Women’s selection whilst Andrew Wood is the Youth Team Lead, overseen by CEO Jim Turner, a highly accomplished sailor from New Zealand with over 20 years of America’s Cup experience. Speaking at the launch, Turner commented: “We will thrust Canadian women and youths to the forefront of competitive racing on the world’s grand stage at the 37th America’s Cup while building a legacy platform for the next generation of world-class high-performance sailors and America’s Cup competitors for our country,” He also announced that the Team Canada training centre would be at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club Jericho facility and in Auckland New Zealand. We expect squad announcements any day soon.

The Swedish Youth & Puig Women’s America’s Cup teams received a significant boost in 2023 with the announcement that Artemis Technologies’ Applied Consulting Division is leveraging its technical prowess, operational expertise, and managerial skills to support the Swedish Challenge. Racing under the burgees of the Royal Yacht Clubs of Sweden, GKSS and KSSS, the Youth & Women’s sailing teams will have access to a program of knowledge and coaching that will enable them to compete at the pinnacle of sailing in the most technologically advanced boats in the world.

The Artemis Pathway programme has also been launched to enable youth sailors to enter the world of foiling sailing to establish a legacy for future generations across Sweden. Iain Percy, CEO of Artemis Technologies and former Artemis Racing Team Manager, expressed his enthusiasm for the venture, stating: “We are delighted to be powering the Swedish Challenge in this milestone year with the inaugural Women’s America’s Cup. It is fantastic to bring the Artemis team back together, combining our expertise and experience to support these talented sailors. This campaign will not only showcase the incredible skills of the Swedish Challenge but also push the boundaries of what is possible in sailing. Artemis Technologies has made significant strides since its previous involvement in the America’s Cup, investing over Euro 80 million in green tech R&D to bring to market a fleet of zero-emission products.

Anna Östling’s women’s match racing team ‘WINGS’ will form the basis for the Puig Women’s Swedish America’s Cup team and speaking about the opportunity, Anna added: “Huge thanks to our yacht club, GKSS, supporting the application and to our partner Hexatronic for making it possible to proceed with the entry. WINGS will team up with the Swedish Youth Challenge and to help we have incredible knowledge and support from professional sailors Phil Robertson Racing and Kyle Langford both living in Gothenburg.”

Australia makes a welcome return to the America’s Cup after a long absence and with the likes of John Bertrand AO, winning skipper from 1983 who ended the 132-year reign of the New York Yacht Club’s dominance of the regatta, and Glenn Ashby a multiple winner of the Cup with Emirates Team New Zealand as selectors, this is a team that cast its net wide across Australia to uncover the next generation of foiling talent.

Youth Selector Glenn Ashby commented: “Our search went far and wide to find sailors happy to step outside their comfort zone and be part of pioneering Australia’s future America’s Cup generation. We haven’t been involved for a very long time and the AC40 with the simulator is the perfect way back in for us as a nation.”

Among the squad are medal winning Olympians, world ranked sailors, multi-national and international champions in fleet and match racing and SailGP trailblazers. The Team Australia Challenge Squad are: Finn Alexander, Tash Bryant, Lucy Copeland, Nina Curtis, Lisa Darmanin, Miles Davey, Jack Ferguson, Evie Haseldine, Tom Needham, Max Paul, Olivia Price, George Richardson, Harry Smith, Mara Stransky, Cole Tapper, Zoe Thomson and Annie Wilmot.

John Bertrand AO commented on the selection: “We have the best sailors in the world, the best opportunity to attract and build sailing sporting skills and now we are back at the pinnacle event for our sport that can build the pathway to keep and celebrate our exceptional talent.”

Philanthropic support has enabled the Team Australia Challenge to purchase the high tech AC40 foiling yacht simulator that will now be used to start an intensive training program to get the athletes prepared for some of the most high-speed performance sailing on the planet.

Last but certainly not least is the German Youth & Women’s Puig America’s Cup teams representing the Kieler Yacht Club and the North German Regatta Association. The team is basing itself at the Foiling Academy in Kiel and although press reports are thin on the ground, what we do know is that Germany has some incredible talent to call upon. In the Women’s squad are the likes of:  iQFoil sensation Theresa Steinlein, Alica Stuhlemmer, Junior Champion Olympic Silver medallist Tina Lutz, Kiel Week winner Sophie Steinlein, Nacra 18 Olympian Carolina Werner, International Moth World Champion Franziska Mäge and 470 World Champion and Olympian Luise Wanser whilst in the Youth division, Nacra 15 World Champion Jesse Lindstädt, 49er ace Lukas Hesse, Waszp champion Paul Farien and German 49er Junior Champion Linus Oppen are all vying for slots. With an outright ambition to win both the Youth & Puig Women’s America’s Cup, Germany is back at the top table of international competition with an impressive squad.

So with all the teams assembling fast and training hard both on the water and in the simulator, the scene is set for a momentous battle in 2024 when the racing begins. The Youth regatta will be raced between the 26th September 2024 and the 2nd October with the Final Match race being held between one of the races in the Louis Vuitton Cup whilst the Puig Women’s America’s Cup will be held between the 10-16th October with the Final Match Race screened between one of the races in the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup Match.

The foiling generation is coming and it’s coming fast. The stars of the future have been identified and it’s an exciting time for all involved. The beating heart of the 37th America’s Cup will have Youth and Women’s athletes right at its centre for what promises to be some of the closest fought racing in 2024.

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