Extreme Sailing Series™ young guns head to Red Bull Youth America’s Cup
The Extreme Sailing Series™ is a unique event for a number of reasons, one of those being that it sees some of the world’s most decorated and experienced sailors competing alongside some of the best upcoming talent.
One reason for this is the rule that was implemented in 2012 that states that one of the five crew must be either a female, classified as an amateur by World Sailing (the sport’s governing body), or under the age of 26. Another is the fact that the fast-paced and physically and mentally intense format of Stadium Racing requires a broad range of skills from the sailors competing; from the agility and strength that comes with youth, to the split-second decision making that only comes from vast amounts of experience.
This month, many of these young sailors will be heading to Bermuda where they will compete against other men and women aged 18-24 on the AC45 foiling catamarans in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup (RBYAC), starting on 12 June. One major advantage that the Extreme Sailing Series sailors will possess is that they have already experienced racing on a professional foiling circuit.
Another bonus is that they will have competed against the RBYAC ‘gurus’, double-Olympic gold medallists Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher, the skipper and tactician of Red Bull Sailing Team and the masterminds behind the whole RBYAC operation.
“Originally Sir Russell Coutts [CEO of the America’s Cup] came up with the idea and he asked us if we were keen to help set it up,” explained Hagara, who is Sports Director of the RBYAC alongside Steinacher. “We took on the job and started from scratch, trying to get the format sorted out and working out how to do the racing.
“The good thing now is that the Extreme Sailing Series is foiling and so is the Youth America’s Cup. The Extreme Sailing Series is a good platform to get into foiling and sailing as a team. It works out very well and it’s promising for the future.”
Land Rover BAR Academy is a squad of some of the UK’s hottest sailing talent, who are hand-picked and mentored by senior members of Sir Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup Challenger.
“The Stadium Racing format of the Extreme Sailing Series forces us to develop our skills to a very high level,” explained skipper Rob Bunce, whose team beat Hagara and Steinacher’s Red Bull Sailing Team in the last Act of the Extreme Sailing Series in Qingdao, finishing second while the Austrians only managed fifth.
Josh Salthouse is bowman on board the Kiwi entry in the Extreme Sailing Series, NZ Extreme Sailing Team, but he will also compete in the RBYAC in June. He recognises the similarities between the two events: “The short courses, the tight action, the boat on boat racing…We’ll take that with us into the Youth America’s Cup.”
His teammate Leonard Takahashi agrees: “The split-second decisions and fast speeds of the Extreme Sailing Series are all related to the Youth America’s Cup. Having that experience to take in is just amazing for us young sailors.”
SAP Extreme Sailing Team’s young Danish mainsail trimmer, Mads Emil Stephensen, is another sailor heading to the north Atlantic island this month.
“Sailing in the Extreme Sailing Series really provides me with the skills to race the foiling cats. It’s good for me to sail on the GC32s and then take some of that knowledge to the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup,” said Stephensen.
“Our aspiration is to get to the finals and do as well as possible. Then we want to give some of the knowledge we’ve learned back to Denmark because we’re not really a foiling nation.”
The co-skipper and helm of the current Extreme Sailing Series’ leader Alinghi, Arnaud Psarofaghis, has previously been involved in the RBYAC and acknowledges the value of these high-performance events for up-and-coming sailors.
“Normally you don’t have the chance to go racing at this level if you’re young, so this brings hope for the young guys. In a few years, the young guys will be overtaking the old guys,” he explained.
The Red Bull Youth America’s Cup takes place in Bermuda in June, with the qualifiers running from 12-16. The sailors will then head to the Madeira Islands to compete in the third Act of the Extreme Sailing Series from 29 June – 2 July. Find out more about the event on the official website.