Those steering yachts at 2012 Audi Hamilton Island Race Week have been asked to keep their eyes peeled on the racetrack, not for whales or other boats, but for a youngster punching well above his weight. At Friday night’s skippers and VIP welcome party held at Hamilton Island Yacht Club, the MC asked other skippers to give 11 year-old Ezra Pritchard, who is driving a 32 foot boat at Race Week, room on the race course.
Ezra Pritchard at the wheel of Southport Mentor on the opening day
Ezra can only just see above the steering wheel, a minor setback for this minor with a bucket load of enthusiasm, and support.
As part of the junior training program run out of Southport Yacht Club on the Queensland Gold Coast, the primary student has joined a crew of five and taken his position at the helm of Southport Mentor for his first Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.
He is one of the two father and son duos on board the Sydney 32, the other being Christopher and Matt Percy. Christopher was the youngest skipper to tackle last year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Ezra Pritchard dockside - Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2012
Ezra cut his sailing teeth at the age of eight, learning the trade largely on Sabots dinghies. Southport Mentor is a big step up for Ezra and having only sailed solo on tiny boats, the St Francis Xavier Catholic student admits he is a little anxious.
‘It’s about having fun. I’m a little nervous and it’s a bit scary, but I’m mostly excited,’ he said on the dock at Hamilton Island before heading to the start line yesterday.
Before the gun had sounded Ezra had already rubbed shoulders with sailing royalty. He was introduced to a larger version of himself, fellow redhead and Olympic gold medal sailor Tom Slingsby, on the dock. Slingsby happily signed Ezra’s shirt and wished him well for the regatta, leaving the young fellow star struck.
Kelvin Holdt is Southport Yacht Club’s sailing administrator and the regular skipper of Southport Mentor. Each year the yacht club enrolls a number of 14 to 18 year olds who want to learn to sail, this year it was mostly younger children who wanted to get involved.
The youngest helmsman at Race Week says the best part so far is ‘being on a big boat’. That was said before he was introduced to his Olympic hero and joined the rest of the fleet for yesterday’s opening 10 nautical mile race in light conditions.
Hamilton Island Race Week website