Red Bull Youth America´s Cup Wrap-Up:
“It was like a Hollywood movie”
No one could have scripted a more exciting ending to the 2017 Red Bull Youth America’s Cup on June 21, as New Zealand was toppled from almost certain triumph in the last seconds of the last race by a determined British team, and Bermuda emerged as the new darlings of sailing. Here, final words and a peek at the future from the Sport Directors, two-time Olympic champions Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher.
Roman and Hans Peter, you spent four years planning the 2017 Red Bull Youth America’s Cup. Were you satisfied with how everything turned out?
RH: Yes, really satisfied. We managed to build the lineup to 12 teams in this edition – 12 really good teams – and the sailing was great. Plus the local Bermuda team, who were new to this, not only qualified for the Final but then won the first race, and the crowd was behind them all the way. There were something like 4,000 spectators, which is a big success for an event like this.
Some of the members of the Bermuda team had never sailed a boat before they started training 18 months ago. Do you think having the regatta on the Great Sound, with TeamBDA such a great role model, will have an effect on the sailing scene here?
RH: Absolutely. TeamBDA is already looking toward their next steps in the future, and Bermuda’s youth program has a lot of kids sailing now. I think it’s had a really big impact.
You predicted that the final day was going to be edge-of-your-seat stuff, and it was! What about that unbelievable last race, where in the final moments Germany hit a marker, Sweden and Switzerland incurred penalties, and Great Britain swooped in to snatch the overall win from the Kiwis?
HPS: Land Rover BAR Academy deserved the win, because they were the best boat overall in all six races of the Finals. But you never could have imagined how this regatta would play out as everything came down to the surprises in that last race. It was like a Hollywood movie: a good Hollywood movie for Great Britain and a bad one for New Zealand. On Day Two, New Zealand was the boat with the best skills. They seemed relaxed and were able to have three wins, but Great Britain was the best boat overall across the six races over the two days.
To follow your movie analogy, the regatta had a new leading lady, Annabel Vose, the tactician for that winning Land Rover BAR Academy crew, who became the first woman on board a boat in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup.
HPS: Yes, we had Annabel’s story on top of all the Hollywood drama, as well as Ceci Wollmann, who was a woman team member on shore for TeamBDA [Bermuda]. For sure we are proud that there were women on two teams in the Final, and that one is now champion of the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup. Annabel was so good on the boat. She was truly part of the team, and it’s a great story in a sport like this – where it’s so difficult to handle these big boats in these conditions – that a really nice and extremely talented young woman was better than all the boys in her role.
Speaking of the boat, there are very few sailors in the world, even among the top professionals, who have sailed an AC45F. How did these 18- to 24-year-olds handle it?
RH: That was always the question we heard, even in the 2013 edition of the regatta before we were on foils: “Can youth sailors handle this boat?” And this year, just as in 2013, they managed really well. They prepared thoroughly beforehand, and several of the teams gained experience sailing GC32s, so most had foiling experience when they came to Bermuda. In the rules they were allowed seven days to practice on the AC45F before official training sessions began. So again, preparation was great from the teams, and in a variety of wind conditions. We were never in doubt that they could handle the boat, and their performances showed that they’ve developed skills they’ll need if they move on to professional sailing careers.
Of course you created the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup exactly for that reason, to help the best young sailors build skills as a stepping stone to the top level of the sport. So do you think we’ll see some of these young athletes in the America’s Cup in 2021?
HPS: Definitely. It will be the same story as with the last edition in 2013: All the America’s Cup teams are watching the next generation, and the sport directors responsible for the sailing teams in the America’s Cup are already looking at taking sailors from this regatta.
RH: It’s been gratifying to have these young sailors take the time to thank us and tell us that they’ve been able to do things that they could never have done without the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup. We’re happy to think this has been good for their careers, and I’m certain these future stars are going to make a great impact on the sailing scene.
And maybe it’s too soon to say, but do you think there will be another Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in the future?
HPS: It’s not too soon, we are already thinking about boats! This is something we take very seriously. We are planning on developing the regatta for the future, seeing where we can make improvements. We are eager to get going for sure, and we are already having meetings with senior teams to get full support so that we will be ready for the next Red Bull Youth America’s Cup.
RH: We’re looking forward to it, and we aim to have even more nations involved next time.